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Match Preview - Morton vs Dundee United


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Morton v Dundee United – Match Preview 

by Russell Gordon

Well, that’s it. Done and dusted. We can forget about promotion, and don’t have any realistic concerns of relegation either. And so, begins the first of four dead-rubbers from a Morton perspective. 

Their visitors Dundee United however, have far more pressing issues after Airdrie’s victory over big-spending Raith Rovers left the Terrors in pole position in the race for the Championship title, with their trip to Cappielow Park supported by Dalrada Technology attracting the BBC Scotland cameras for a game that unfortunately won’t mean as much to those of a Morton persuasion. 

Match tickets are available at the below link:

Fanbase | Select Ticket (fanbaseclub.com) 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Squad News 

With this evening’s match being Morton’s third in six days, Dougie Imrie could again shuffle his pack, and with the welcome return of midfielder Iain Wilson at Somerset Park on Tuesday night from the bench, we could see him take his place in the starting XI after a relatively encouraging return on an otherwise dour evening’s “entertainment”. 

While I’d expect Cammy Blues to start, that probably leaves one spot to be fought for between Wilson, Grant Gillespie and Alan Power. 

For the time being at least, it looks as though Kirk Broadfoot is the preferred defensive option to Darragh O’Connor, and after notching a goal against Ayr, will likely continue in the starting XI. 

Imrie did intimate before the Somerset draw that only Jamie MacDonald and Lewis Strapp are injured, although the nature of the injury Strapp picked up against Dunfermline, and the length of his absence remain unclear. He has pointed out that there were a few niggles and knocks since that draw, and he could be waiting until late on for a couple to prove their fitness. 

While Michael Garrity started on Tuesday, Jai Quitongo, Lewis McGrattan and Jack Bearne will also be pushing for a start. 

Current Connections  

There are two former United players in the Morton squad. Grant Gillespie enjoyed only a short spell at Tannadice, in the second half of the 2017-18 season, making only six appearances as United were denied promotion by title winners St. Mirren and eventual play-off winners Livingston at the semi-final stage. 

Robbie Muirhead joined Dundee United for a £150,000 fee from his boyhood heroes Kilmarnock in January 2015, a move that saw then-Killie boss Allan Johnston handing in his resignation as a result. He was to make only fifteen appearances, scoring twice: in a 1-2 defeat by Inverness and more notably, the only goal in a 1-0 victory over rivals Aberdeen. 

In the visitors ranks, only Liam Grimshaw has represented Morton. The affable right back/midfielder joined up under freedom of contract in the early weeks of last season, enjoying a brief but successful spell in Greenock, in which he won the club’s Player of the Year award before moving onto Tayside as Morton were unable to compete with United’s more attractive financial package. 

Another familiar face to the Cappielow was former kitman Andy Bryan, who served Morton for over forty years in various capacities before he was removed from his position by Dave MacKinnon in the bad old days of he and David Hopkin’s reign of terror. 

Tale of the Tape  

It’s very much honours even between the sides this season. On Morton’s first trip to Tannadice in September, the struggling visitors fell behind to an early Louis Moult header, but battled back in the second half, as Robbie Muirhead latched onto a howling mix-up between United’s Luton loanee goalkeeper Jack Walton and former Scotland defender Declan Gallagher to snatch an unlikely equaliser. 

The game was ruined by the appalling performance of referee David Munro, however, and not for the first or last time this season, although he did make one correct decision in ordering off United’s Matthew Cudjoe, for an elbow on Callum Waters. 

If the first visit was all about the hapless Munro though, Morton’s George Oakley stole the show second time around with a fantastic hat-trick to shock the title favourites and deliver three points to Dougie Imrie’s side. 

Oakley nodded home Michael Garrity’s pinpoint cross on 25 minutes and poked in a second 11 minutes later to double the ‘Ton’s lead, but United hit back immediately through a Kai Fotheringham header, and Moult equalised on the stroke of half time. 

While United dominated the second half, things turned late on when they were again reduced to ten men as Craig Sibbald was ordered off for a second bookable offence. A minute later, Oakley got on the end of a long Ryan Mullen clearance and outmuscled Kevin Holt before his terrific strike kissed the inside of the post on the way in, much to the delight of the Morton bench and the travelling support. 

In the most recent meeting at Cappielow, re-arranged from December, United won 1-0 thanks to a first half goal from Moult, a real thorn in Morton’s side all season. I won’t go into it in the same length I did our victory at Tannadice. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Opposition Analysis  

Quite how they’ve managed it I don’t know, but United are now clear favourites to seal the title. Many may argue that it’s despite Jim Goodwin rather than because of his good work, but it can’t be denied that when questions have been asked at the business end of the season, they’ve delivered the goods, rather than drawing cartoons and chasing likes on social media, while their big-spending title challengers Raith Rovers have stuttered. 

United’s victory over the far-from-frugal Fifers last weekend was pivotal, and in following it up with a 5-0 victory over Queen’s Park, they look to have hit form at the right time, coinciding with Raith failing to make the most of their significant financial clout against Airdrie in midweek, a result that did our own promotion ambitions no favours at all. 

I spoke to our regular United port of call, Gary Manson of the Shed 57 (@Shed_57) supporters’ club, who is feeling a bit better about life on Tayside these days: 

“Things are looking much rosier on Tannadice Street since United last visited Cappielow. 

Airdrie’s win at Stark’s Park on Tuesday night has given United valuable breathing space in the title race and they can take a huge step towards the Premiership with a win on Friday night. There have been a few ropey moments in the last few weeks- not least relying on Louis Moult scoring from the halfway line to salvage a 1-1 draw with struggling Inverness, but a 2-0 win over Raith at Tannadice a fortnight ago put United in the driving seat and last weekend’s 5-0 demolition of Queen’s Park at Hampden further underlined the Tangerines’ title credentials. 

Jack Walton has overall been a reliable pair of hands in the goal and has been an enormous improvement on the catastrophic and calamitous goalkeeping from last season which contributed so heavily to United losing their Premiership status. 

Young Miller Thomson has slotted into the right back position and is growing in confidence with every passing week. Earlier this season, United had experienced centre halves in Declan Gallagher and Kevin Holt, but injury has meant that Ross Graham and Northern Irishman Sam McClellan have stepped up to the first team with two consecutive clean sheets to their credit. Scott McMann, who’s featured heavily this season makes up the regular back four. 

United are a different side with Ross Docherty in the midfield. Docherty brings a definite confidence and composure to the middle of the park and helps the United midfield to dictate the pace of the game. Craig Sibbald, the leading contender for United’s Player of the Year award, has had a solid season and has staked a claim for a midfield berth should United return to the top division. 

Tony Watt remains something of an enigma. He had a great game against Raith at Tannadice, scoring United’s opener and proving a constant thorn in the Raith defence, but too often he’s appeared disinterested, and the game passed him by. Morton fans will hope that Watt has a quiet night at Cappielow as he can on occasion prove United’s most threatening attacking player. 

Young Kai Fotheringham has enjoyed a good season, and since breaking into the first team he has chipped into United’s title push with eleven goals. His brace at Hampden last week will breed confidence for Friday night and his return to goalscoring form enhances United’s attacking threat in a forward line which is completed by Louis Moult, who will be looking to score in a fourth consecutive game. 

Much of the United support have been far from happy with their team’s efforts this season. Seldom can a team at the top of the league have generated so much negativity and there is an element of the support that is far from convinced by Goodwin. That all has the potential to change in the event of getting over the line, lifting some silverware and returning to the topflight, though. 

Eight points from four games is enough, irrespective of Raith’s results- the travelling support will hope three of those are added this evening.” 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

What’s Happening Elsewhere? 

With finishing as high up the table as possible the only realistic aim, there’s not much to get excited about, I’m afraid. 

Fifth placed Dunfermline travel to Airdrie, and a Diamonds victory at this stage would probably be the best-case scenario at this stage in terms of picking up prize money, but if we’re being honest, there’s nothing that will suit Morton. 

Big-spending Raith Rovers face Partick at Stark’s Park in a game that could be a dress rehearsal for a play-off semi-final that picking a preferred winner from would be akin to choosing your favourite serial killer. 

At the bottom of the table, Arbroath’s inevitable relegation will be rubber-stamped should they fail to beat Ayr or Inverness collect anything at Hampden. 

That fixture at the National Stadium is probably the biggest match-up of the weekend, with the Highlanders sitting a point behind their hosts as both battles to avoid ninth place and a likely semi-final against Montrose in early May. 

Betting Guide  

All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7pm on 11th April 2024 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.  

Unsurprisingly, the visitors are clear favourites at 4/5, whilst Morton are priced at a very large 3/1 and the draw at 5/2. 

Morton to win 1-0 is 10/1 and George Oakley to score the first goal is priced at 13/2. 

Match Officials  

Referee- Graham Grainger takes charge of his fourth match at Cappielow this season, and the omens aren’t good, with the official having presided over defeats by Partick, Dunfermline and Inverness. 

AR 1- Chris Rae 

AR 2- Iain Hart 

Fourth Official- Lloyd Wilson 

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