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Match Preview - Morton vs Dunfermline (23rd March)


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Morton v Dunfermline Athletic – Match Preview 

by Russell Gordon 

Morton welcome Dunfermline Athletic to Cappielow Park supported by Dalrada Technology hoping to arrest a run of form that has now stretched to four defeats on the bounce after last Saturday’s defeat to Partick at Firhill. 

With the Pars’ form having improved since their East End Park mauling by Morton last month, Dougie Imrie’s side will be well aware of the threat James McPake’s side pose as the push for the promotion play-offs gathers pace, while both will also have a look over their shoulders for what’s going on further down the table. 

Match tickets are available at the below link: 

Fanbase | Select Ticket (fanbaseclub.com) 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Squad News 

How Imrie will choose to line up is anyone’s guess. Having named an unchanged side in terms of personnel for the visit to Firhill, the decision to operate Tyler French in a holding midfield role, allowing Darragh O’Connor to go out to right back didn’t really work, and I’d expect to see French returned to his more natural right back position, or at least operating as a wing back in a back five. 

While all Morton fans are crossing their fingers for the return of George Oakley from injury, the loss of Iain Wilson has been just as critical, and the schedule for his return is also unknown, but expected to be later than that of the frontman. 

Jai Quitongo may also sit out, but it’s more of a surprise when he makes a squad these days, such is his misfortune. 

Imrie could look to drop one of Alan Power or Grant Gillespie, more likely the latter, to the bench, such was the more encouraging displays of Michael Garrity and Jack Bearne in particular on their introductions last weekend. 

One would expect Robbie Muirhead to again plough a lone furrow up front in Oakley’s absence, hopefully with Robbie Crawford, whose impact was somewhat stifled last weekend, getting up to support. 

Current Connections  

There are no former Morton players in the Dunfermline squad, with only manager James McPake having tasted the honour of pulling on the famous blue-and-white hoops, during a largely forgettable loan-spell from Livingston back in 2006. 

In the home camp, Robbie Muirhead endured a difficult time in Fife, having spent the majority of the 2018-19 season at East End Park and failing to find the net in twelve appearances. His relative success in his time at Cappielow must have proved frustrating to the Pars support who saw their side relegated while Muirhead prospered on Dougie Imrie’s arrival at Morton in 2022. 

Iain Wilson spent a year and a half at Dunfermline before being lured to Cappielow for his first spell at Morton shortly after the arrival of Imrie, finding the net for Morton as they visited the Fifers in a 1-1 East End Park draw that proved damaging in their attempts to avoid a play-off place at the bottom of the league and ultimately relegation to the third tier. 

Tale of the Tape  

Morton suffered two defeats in the season’s first two meetings, falling behind early on both occasions. 

In the first meeting in Fife, An 8th minute Craig Wighton goal gave the Pars the lead before Lewis McCann doubled their advantage after 27 minutes. On a day that anything that could go wrong for Morton did, new loan signing Tyler French was taken off injured before his replacement, Darragh O’Connor lasted only seven minutes before suffering the same fate. 

Robbie Crawford reduced the arrears late on but with Morton pushing for an equaliser, former St. Johnstone winger Michael O’Halloran added a third to seal the win for Dunfermline at the death. 

It was the Owen Moffat show in the opening minutes of Dunfermline’s last visit to Cappielow, with the Celtic loanee netting only 17 seconds into the game, before adding a second on seven minutes. 

On a night that frustrations really came to the fore in front of the BBC Scotland cameras, Wilson was seen to express his ire at the boss on his first half substitution, while Kirk Broadfoot exchanged angry words with sections of the support with Morton trailing. 

A more spirited second half performance saw Steven Boyd convert a late penalty, but Morton ran out of time to source what in truth would have been a scarcely deserved equaliser. 

But it was a much happier story last time around, with Morton recording their most convincing victory of the season, smashing five past an injury-ravaged Dunfermline side who simply couldn’t cope with Morton’s high press. This was big-bad-physical-Morton operating at their best. 

Doubles for centre backs Darragh O’Connor and Jack Baird put Morton in easy street before Michael Garrity added a fifth against a Dunfermline side who were admittedly appalling on the day, having been totally overran in midfield and having failed to deal with Lewis Strapp’s long throws all afternoon. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Opposition Analysis  

Things have improved for Dunfermline since that East End Park horror show, although they also suffered another chastening defeat to Queen’s Park the following week, while a home draw with League One-bound Arbroath was definitely seen as two points dropped, rather than a point gained. 

Perhaps the turning point for them though, was their visit to Firhill to face Partick. The Pars recorded a 3-1 win, but few, even this observer, would suggest they weren’t the beneficiaries of favourable refereeing decisions, with Brian Graham having two goals ruled out for offside. It was Brian Graham though, so we’ll overlook it. 

The Pars followed that up with four points from games against Inverness and Ayr, but then suffered defeat to Airdrie in a rearranged fixture before losing for the fifth time this season to their big-spending Fife rivals, Raith Rovers. 

They did however, assist their moneybags neighbours last week by beating Dundee United 3-1 at East End Park, thanks in no small part to two goals and an assist from Kane Ritchie-Hosler. 

It’s noticeable from that 5-0 victory that of Dunfermline’s newly signed central defensive pairing who played that day, Cardiff loanee Malachi Fagan-Walcott seems to have settled into the Pars team, even bagging goals against Arbroath and Partick, while his compatriot from the Welsh capital, Xavier Benjamin, has barely seen any action in recent weeks. 

What’s Happening Elsewhere? 

There are only four Championship matches this weekend, with Partick hoping to follow up their victory over Morton by putting another nail into Arbroath’s coffin. 

Ayr host Queen’s Park at Somerset Park in a game that anything other than a home victory would be acceptable, but a draw preferable. 

Inverness, still smarting from Highland Council’s decision to reject their planning permission application for a battery farm, visit Tannadice to face league leaders Dundee United, charged with the task of dragging themselves from the relegation play-off place, with the hosts hoping to be energized by big-spending Raith Rovers’ failure to capitalise on their aberration last weekend. 

The far-from-frugal-Fifers sit out this weekend, with scheduled opponents Airdrie taking part in this season’s SPFL Trust Trophy Final against Welsh champions The New Saints in Grangemouth. Choosing between Airdrie winning the cup or Declan McManus winning it is quite a dilemma! 

We could see a new addition to the Championship this weekend. With League One minnows Falkirk currently sitting 17 points clear of second placed Hamilton, a win for them over already relegated Edinburgh City, coupled with second-placed Hamilton failing to defeat Cove Rangers in Aberdeen, will see them crowned as League One champions at the fifth attempt. I’m sure we will delight in congratulating them, look forward to them visiting Cappielow and enjoy journeys to Grangemouth next term. It’s been a while, after all. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Betting Guide  

All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7pm on 21st March 2024 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.  

Morton are listed as favourites at 11/10, with an away win priced at 11/5 and the draw at 23/10. 

Robbie Muirhead to net at least twice against his former employers is 5/1 and Morton to win without conceding is 13/5. 

Match Officials  

Referee- Steven McLean takes charge of his third Morton game of the season, having been in the middle of our 3-0 League Cup Group stage win over Stranraer and our 0-0 draw with Queen’s Park at Hampden last month. 

AR 1- David Dunne 

AR 2- Cameron Telfer 

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