Match Preview - Cove Rangers vs Morton (5th May)
Cove Rangers vs Morton – Match Preview
by Dean McKinnon
As the curtain falls on a terrific Championship season on the Tail o’ the Bank, Dougie Imrie’s men head north hoping to secure a playoff place. Imrie’s first order of business will be to beat a Cove side who are as desperate to avoid play-offs as their visitors are to be included in them. In a situation much akin to Morton, Cove will be hoping that a win combined with a favourable result from elsewhere will guarantee survival in their debut season in the second tier.
After an excellent team performance and result against title contenders Queen’s Park last weekend, The Ton will head into Friday night’s encounter hoping that lady luck can shine upon them as they aim to run the gauntlet of the Premiership promotion play-offs.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
The Ton will continue to be without long term absentee Lewis Strapp, who waved goodbye to the Cappielow faithful following the full time whistle on Saturday. There was concern for combative striker George Oakley, who was withdrawn during the second half with what appeared to be an issue with his hamstring. If Oakley is ruled out, it may trigger a return to the 4-3-3 that Imrie used to great effect earlier in the season.
Imrie tweaked his shape during the second half against Queen’s, with Robbie Muirhead being replaced with Blues, and Robbie Crawford being moved into a more advanced role. This tactical shift played a significant role in the aforementioned Crawford scoring Saturday’s audacious winner.
Connections between the two clubs are rather thin on the ground. Veteran goalkeeper Scott Fox joined The Ton on loan ahead of the relegation play-offs in 2020/21, helping steer Gus MacPherson’s men past Airdrieonians in both legs of the playoff final. Full back Adam Livingstone, who joined on loan from Motherwell, represented Cove Rangers eleven times in their League One campaign last season.
Cove gaffer Paul Hartley, who recently returned for a second stint at Cove, spent a short but distinguished loan spell on Sinclair Street in 1999/00, with a stunning free-kick at Love Street the cherry on of his brief time in blue and white. Scott Paterson passed through the revolving door that was the Cappielow dressing room in the midst of the administration saga of 2001.
Tale of the Tape
Cove Rangers are yet to claim a point against Morton this season. The Aberdeen side made their first ever visit to the Tail o’ the Bank on Matchday 2 of this season. The visitors defended stubbornly, and as the Cowshed faithful began to question if they would find a breakthrough, explosive winger Jai Quitongo’s instinctive turn and finish flew into the net to claim a first win of the season for The Ton.
Robbie Crawford opened his Morton account in style as they left the North East with all three points on Matchday 16. Winger Jaze Kabia swept the visitors ahead shortly before half time in a fixture which battled against the wind. Jim McIntyre’s men looked to have snatched a point late on, as a defensive mix-up allowed Leighton McIntosh to tap in at the back post in the 83rd minute. Energetic midfielder Robbie Crawford secured a stunning win for The Ton with a sweet strike from the edge of the area four minutes later, much to the delight of the travelling support.
The Ton welcomed Cove to Cappielow Park supported by Dalrada Technology on Matchday 25. Despite the attacking intent from the hosts during the first period, Leighton McIntosh headed his side in front on the brink of half time. The Ton rallied in the late stages, being awarded a penalty with ten minutes left on the clock. Robbie Muirhead’s thunderous penalty deflected off of Scott Fox and into the net. In a similar ending to the reverse fixture, Robbie Crawford sent Cappielow into ecstasy, poking the ball home from close range with a few minutes left to keep The Ton’s hopes of the top four alive.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Cove’s debut season in the Championship has certainly proven to be a baptism of fire. The part time side have battled it out with Hamilton and Arbroath this season for Championship survival, and now require a win on Friday to have any hope of avoiding the relegation play-offs. They have resurrected their form in the last couple of weeks after Raith hitting them for six, falling 3-0 to Ayr United and Partick breaching their defence on five occasions. They secured a critical 1-0 win against Arbroath a fortnight ago, followed up with a credible 0-0 draw at Dens Park last Friday night.
I spoke to Cove Rangers Head of Media and Communications, and BBC Sportsound Open All Mics host Richard Gordon, who spoke of the nerves in the hosts’ camp ahead of Friday’s showdown - “Our last meeting at Cappielow set the scene for the next couple of months. Cove were of course 1-0 up that afternoon, but conceded two late goals, and that defeat was followed by five more on the spin.
The growing injury list did not help. With Fraser Fyvie and Brody Paterson ruled out for the season, we also lost Blair Yule and Miko Virtanen long term, and soon after Michael O'Halloran and Leighton McIntosh were added to the casualties. That has meant manager Paul Hartley being unable to fill his bench in weeks, often having just four or five fit options.
Despite that, the players dug deep and recorded what might prove to be a massive win at Gayfield a fortnight ago, makeshift striker Morgyn Neill securing the points with a late header. With the squad still stretched to its limit, the side followed that up with a backs-to-the-wall ninety minutes at Dens Park, the outstanding defensive performance earning a 0-0 draw against title chasing Dundee. That point moved us ahead of Hamilton, and into the play-off place ahead of what is sure to be a nerve-wracking final ninety minutes of the season.”
What’s Happening Elsewhere?
There’s no way around it, Morton still need a snooker to reach the play-offs. The most likely route for The Ton to secure fourth place would be for Inverness and Ayr to draw in the Highlands. This, coupled with a Morton win, would place The Ton on 57 points, with Caley Thistle and Ayr both finishing on 56 points.
If Raith topple Partick Thistle, this along with a Morton win would secure a place in the play-offs. If both sides draw in Kirkcaldy, combined with a Morton win and a twelve goal swing in The Ton’s favour all come to fruition, fourth place will be secured.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
All match odds are provided by McBookie. Odds are correct as of 6pm on 3rd May 2023 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
Dougie Imrie’s men head into this tie as favourites, although being priced higher than evens at 6/5. The hosts are 9/5 to claim a valuable three points, with the draw chalked at 5/2.
If you fancy a relatively relaxed evening for the visitors, you can back Morton to be winning at half time and at full time at 13/5.
If you feel overly optimistic, you can back Morton to win alongside Inverness and Ayr to draw as a double, with £10 returning £74.80.
Referee – Craig Napier
AR1 – Gordon Crawford
AR2 – Paul McAvinue
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