Morton v Ayr United – Match Preview
by Russell Gordon
Exactly three months to the day since that heartbreaking night that we trudged through the Aberdeenshire sludge in despair having missed out on a play-off place by the narrowest of margins, Morton’s cinch Championship campaign for 2023-24 kicks off against the team whose late winner in the Highlands was to stick and twist the dagger into the hearts of the Morton support on that fateful evening.
With both sides harbouring ambitions of challenging at the top end of the table again this time around, this is a hotly anticipated curtain raiser to the new season at Cappielow Park supported by Technology.
Tickets for the match are available at the below link:
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Last weekend’s progression in the Viaplay Cup has provided welcome relief to Dougie Imrie, given the potential rewards coming from a visit to one of Glasgow’s big two and the cheque from the competition sponsors for live TV coverage that will also go a long way to bolstering what looks to be a threadbare squad.
With Jack Baird nursing a shoulder injury, Cammy Blues has slotted in admirably at right back, but will miss out through suspension having been ordered off for two bookings in the win at Cove on the final day of last season, so Imrie will be hoping to bring in defensive reinforcements ahead of the match. Given Morton’s policy of announcing new signings immediately before matches in recent times, expect to be kept on tenterhooks right up to the last minute if you’re waiting for any new arrivals.
One man who has come through the door is experienced former Hearts and Kilmarnock goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, who was a regular source of frustration for ‘Ton fans over his last two seasons between the sticks at Raith Rovers. Whilst the signing of the experienced stopper should hopefully bring some welcome competition and support to the more youthful Ryan Mullen, it’s emerged that Mullen has in fact suffered an injury, so MacDonald will likely be thrown in the firing line immediately for the visit of The Honest Men.
Connections between the clubs are a bit thinner on the ground than in previous years, which would suggest that the disastrous squad building at both clubs by David Hopkin is gradually being repaired by two far more competent managers in the respective dugouts.
In the Morton camp, the injured Baird of course sandwiched a couple of seasons at Somerset Park between his two spells in Greenock, whilst Robbie Crawford spent the formative years of his career in Ayrshire.
Ayr can of course boast Andy Murdoch, well thought of in his time at Cappielow under Jim Duffy, and Sean McGinty, not so fondly remembered amongst the Cowshed faithful, and sure to attract some howls of derision from the home support. Here’s hoping he doesn’t enjoy this visit as much as he did his last to Greenock!
Tale of the Tape
Let’s not beat about the bush here- Morton “owe” Ayr United one. Although we won the SPFL Trust Trophy tie between the two on penalties last season, a return of two home defeats and two draws at Somerset Park in the league fixtures proved pivotal in cementing Ayr’s progression to the play-offs and Morton being left to click their heels in frustration throughout the month of May before we all got to enjoy Partick’s not-at-all funny collapse in the second leg of the final in Dingwall.
Morton’s last home league win at Cappielow against Ayr was in the dark days of the COVID season, but was a thriller, with goals from Cammy Blues, Gary Oliver and Lewis Strapp in the last ten minutes turning round a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 on one of the very few enjoyable afternoons of that turgid campaign. Before that, we hadn’t beaten them at Cappielow in the league since 2016, leaving Morton with a record of one win in the last ten Cappielow head-to-heads in the league.
Whilst Ayr have had to manage disappointment over the summer, with the traumatic nature of that loss to Partick in the play-off and the of the talismanic Dipo Akinyemi, who moved onto York City for a nominal fee, they have been bolstered by the signings of two Scottish-born international wingers, in the shape of twice capped ex-Sheffield United ace Jamie Murphy and the Glaswegian wide man, Aiden McGeady.
Whilst Jamaican front man Akeem Rose, signed from Weymouth, is charged with replacing the goals of Akinyemi, those have not been in short supply in a League Cup group campaign that saw Ayr winning their group by only dropping a point and finding the back of the net on ten occasions.
Whilst Frankie Musonda has been missing from the Ayr line up thus far, the signing of defender Ahui from Lincoln City will allay some concerns about the visitors’ defensive set up.
Our go-to Ayr United supporter Marc Dunlop (@Marco_Ayr) provided me with a fan’s perspective of how things are looking down Somerset Park way:
“The Honest Men begin the 2023-24 campaign in Greenock and like their hosts, will be looking to continue their good form from the League Cup group stages.
Lee Bullen has brought in eight new signings: the most eye catching of whom being Aiden McGeady in a player/coach role and the experienced Jamie Murphy. It will be interesting to see how the team lines up, but I think most Ayr fans will agree that homegrown talent Fraser Bryden has impressed in recent weeks and deserves a start. His brace in the 6-0 rout of Alloa surely brings him into contention. On a negative however, new signing George Stanger will miss the Cappielow trip through suspension, having seen red in Alloa’s play-off defeat at Hamilton.
That game also gave the supporters a quick look at Akeem Rose, who joins from Weymouth in the National League south, and we’ll be hopeful he can replicate the success of previous recruits from such a level.
As always, I expect an action-packed encounter, with both sets of players giving 100%. I’ll stop short of giving any score predictions, but I think I speak for everyone down Somerset way when I say we’re quietly confident after our League Cup exploits. A cracking game awaits both sets of punters. C’mon Ayr!!!”
What’s Happening Elsewhere?
The league season kicks off at Gayfield with a derby between Arbroath and Jim Goodwin’s relegated Dundee United, as the Arabs look to bounce back at the first time of asking, after having spent four consecutive seasons in this division in memory.
Saturday sees the two promoted sides, Dunfermline and Airdrie facing off in Fife as the Pars raise the League One flag, whilst Queen’s Park will be hoping all their players are eligible for the visit to Inverness.
Partick Thistle host big-spending Raith Rovers at Firhill as they bid to get over their own crushing disappointment of missing out so narrowly last term.
All odds are supplied by . All odds correct as of 7am on 4th August 2023 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit if you are struggling.
Morton head into the match as narrow favourites at 5/4, whilst Ayr register at 19/10 and the draw comes in at 23/10
Morton to score in both halves is 12/5 and a Morton win with both teams to score is 10/3.
Referee- Matthew McDermid
AR 1 Carr
AR 2- Steven Wilson