Morton v Queen’s Park – Match Preview
by Russell Gordon
Whilst it feels like we’ve been saying for weeks now that Morton were using their last chance to remain in the race for the play-offs, remarkably, as we head into the penultimate weekend of the season, we’ve still got a fighting chance.
Last Saturday’s narrow win over Raith Rovers coincided with fellow contenders Inverness, Partick and Ayr United all dropping points in a weekend in which only Morton and bottom feeders Cove Rangers picked up maximum points.
With Dundee hosting the Aberdeen side in Friday night’s BBC Scotland fixture, the visit of title-chasing Queen’s Park to Cappielow Park supported by Dalrada Technology takes on an extra significance as the Spiders’ failure to take maximum points could see the trophy head to Tayside before the Dark Blues visit Larbert next Friday.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Imrie has intimated that Jai Quitongo will be assessed and could make an appearance, whilst Lewis Strapp and Ally Roy will miss the remainder of the season, and have likely played their final games for Morton. Alex King’s surprise inclusion on Saturday proved an inspired move as the young midfielder’s early headed goal was enough to beat the Fife side, and will provide a headache for the boss as he mulls over his midfield with regulars Grant Gillespie and Cammy Blues again fit and available.
George Oakley will hope to add to his tally of four against the “Glasgow” club, having scored doubles in the last two games against Saturday’s visitors.
There are a number of ex-Spiders in the Morton ranks- Grant Gillespie and Jai Quitongo took the step down the divisions to join Raymond McKinnon’s revolution. Fortunately for them, it was to prove a more successful one than those at Morton and particularly Falkirk, as they enjoyed two consecutive promotions- the first of which was under Raymond, with the League Two title pocketed for good measure.
Morton Assistant Manager Andy Millen closed out his lengthy career with the Spiders in 2011, eventually retiring from playing at the ripe old age of 45.
In the Queen’s squad, Josh McPake had a very brief spell at Morton under another of our hapless ex-gaffers, David Hopkin, before getting out as soon as he possibly could. Lee Kilday had a more celebrated spell on the Tail o’ the Bank, bagging a League One title in 2015 and enjoying a further three relatively successful seasons in the Championship before heading off to Queen of the South and subsequently Queen’s Park alongside Gillespie and Quitongo.
Tale of the Tape
The head-to-head makes for good reading. Morton have collected seven points from a possible nine so far this season against the league’s moneyed new boys.
In October, Morton quickly exorcised the ghosts of their 1-5 Firhill drubbing the previous Saturday by recording a shock 2-1 midweek win over Owen Coyle’s expensively assembled side. Robbie Muirhead added to Jaze Kabia’s goal to give the good guys a commanding lead before Malachai Boateng reduced the arrears, but the hosts fell short in their attempts to salvage a draw.
With the festive fixture at Cappielow postponed until February, Morton were to record another victory when the match eventually came around. After falling behind to an early Grant Savoury strike, a first-half George Oakley double and a Jack Baird goal just after half time again gave the ‘Ton a firm grip on the game. Queen’s however were to again peg them back- Conor Shields’ goal 23 minutes from time though wasn’t enough, and Coyle’s side were again to leave empty handed.
Three weeks later, Morton returned to Ochilview, and made a better job of getting back into a game than Queen’s had in the previous two encounters. With “the hosts” comfortably leading through Tommy Robson and Marcel Oakley, another fine Oakley double was enough to earn Morton a share of the spoils.
Queen’s Park’s last victory over Morton was in a Challenge Cup tie in 2016, whilst they’ve failed to beat Morton in the last thirteen league games, stretching back to April 1962.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
As I previously mentioned, the visitors’ mindset heading into the match will likely be influenced by proceedings at Dens Park on Friday night. Should Dundee win as expected, the pressure is on the Spiders to get that elusive victory over Morton in order that they can take the title race to a final day showdown in Larbert. A defeat would arithmetically secure the Dark Blues the title, whilst a draw would effectively do the same, given that their goal difference is currently ten goals better than our visitors, and that could only be extended with such a scenario.
A draw at Dens would see Queen’s leapfrog Dundee by a couple of points in the event of an away win at Cappielow whilst the draw in both would of course produce the status quo. A Cove win would see Queen’s go two clear with a Cappielow win, and go level on points with Dundee with a draw.
Queen’s Park though, have been unconvincing in recent weeks- one win in five, a narrow 1-0 success over relegation threatened Hamilton, is not the form of potential champions. Their draw at Ayr went down well in these parts, and in truth, neither deserved any more than that from a very nervy affair. Prior to that, defeats against Arbroath, Raith Rovers and a particularly chastening drubbing at Partick struck a real blow to their promotion hopes. Ex-Morton defender Kilday collected an injury against Ayr and was replaced by teenager Alex Bannon, so could miss out on meeting up with his former employers.
I spoke to Queen’s Park fan David Blair (@RealDavieBear) of the Spiders Talk Podcast (@SpidersTalkPod), who is well aware of the significance of his side’s visit to the Clyde Riviera.
“The Scottish Championship never fails to deliver on drama, and this season has been no different. I don’t think that it’s too biased to say that Queen’s Park, with odds as long as 50/1 to win the title back in June, have exceeded all expectations in our first trip back into the second tier of the Scottish pyramid system in around 40 years. And incredibly, with two games left to go, we are still in with a chance of winning the whole thing.
Win the last two games and we win the league. Simple as that, right?
Wrong. We had been immune to the extended poor run of form that has struck every other team to some extent this season, but ours began back in mid-March where we struggled to victories over Cove Rangers and Inverness (the former only thanks to a late own goal), before three brutal defeats in a row to Arbroath, Raith Rovers and Partick Thistle. We have since stopped the rot with a win over Hamilton followed by last week’s draw against Ayr, but some concerns still remain.
Only one goal scored in the last five games means we have lost the goal difference advantage that we held in the title race, and we need to see more of the early season magic from the likes of Grant Savoury and Dom Thomas in these last two “cup finals” to get back to scoring ways. We have been better defensively recently, but we come into this week with a couple of injury concerns to Lee Kilday, who had to be substituted in the 0-0 draw at Somerset Park, and Jack Thomson, who was eventually subbed off after receiving a bloody face from a strong 50/50 challenge in the same fixture.
And those are two players you don’t want to be without for a massive game like this Saturday. We have not done well against Morton this season, but I think in the previous two meetings there have been signs of improvement for Queen’s Park. Last time at Cappielow, a first half minute of madness from the otherwise reliable Callum Ferrie put us on the back foot, but we did improve in the last half hour of that game and just couldn’t take advantage of the pressure we created. And in the 2-2 game at Ochilview, I still wonder what referee Mike Roncone saw to disallow Stephen Eze’s header that would’ve made it 3-1 on the day. When that was disallowed, I just knew that George Oakley would find a late equaliser…
Tensions amongst the travelling support will almost certainly be high as, with Dundee taking on Cove on Friday night, we know we need to at least match their result to take the league title to a final day showdown. But we can’t forget Morton are still fighting for the play-offs themselves, and a point won’t be good enough for them either. I think all being said, it sets this week’s game to be an absolute belter, and I hope it’s a case of better late than never to get our first win over Morton this season.”
Photo - GBR Photographs.
What’s Happening Elsewhere?
Enough of the connotations for Queen’s Park though, what about Morton, and the teams we’re competing with for fourth place and a crack at the play-offs? Let’s take a look at each of the teams we could still catch…
Inverness Caledonian Thistle- Morton sit four points behind the Highland side with a game in hand. With Inverness otherwise occupied in the Scottish Cup semi-final, a win would take us within a point of them ahead of their last day clash with Ayr United. Maximum points would see Morton finish above both in the event of a draw. We can forget catching Inverness should they best Ayr next Friday.
Partick Thistle- With Partick sitting two clear of Morton, the chances of catching them are more realistic. Kris Doolan’s men have what would look to most like a relatively straight-forward last couple of games at home to Arbroath and away to Raith Rovers. The fixture against a Raith team with nothing to play for is more of a concern however, as Arbroath’s shock defeat to Cove could force their hand. A win over Cove would have allowed them the luxury of playing out the season under no pressure, but hopefully that defeat can inspire them to secure their safety by picking up a result (preferably a win) at Firhill. Two draws from Partick’s final two games would be nice, but we’d take a win and a defeat for them. A win and a draw from these two games for Partick would make it unlikely that Morton would catch them, given Partick’s superior goal difference.
Ayr United- The Honest Men currently sit a point ahead of Morton, and are also outsiders to make the top four. Whilst I’ve already discussed their trip to Inverness, Saturday’s visit of Raith Rovers concerns me. As well as having nothing to play for, Rovers will be without the suspended Tom Lang and Lewis Vaughan for the trip to Somerset Park, following their orderings off at Cappielow last Saturday.
Of course, while Morton are looking for favours elsewhere, yielding six points from our final two games is essential. With Inverness and Ayr facing off on the final day, two wins will see us finish above at least one of the two, but Partick Thistle are the ones for the watching, as we’re unlikely to catch both Ayr and Inverness. It should be remembered that Cove will go into the final game needing a win regardless of results elsewhere, but hopefully a rub of the green elsewhere coupled with a home win at Cappielow will make the picture a bit clearer at 5pm on Saturday.
We’re looking towards you, Raith and Arbroath. Do your stuff…
All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7am on 28th April 2023 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
Home advantage perhaps makes Morton the favourites going into the match at 5/4, whilst Queen’s Park are 15/8. The draw is 23/10.
George Oakley to repeat the feat of the last two meetings by scoring at least a double is 10/1, whilst Morton to keep a clean sheet is 9/4.
Referee- John Beaton
AR 1- Graeme Stewart
AR 2- Elliot Husband Powton