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Match Preview - Arbroath vs Morton (20th April)


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Arbroath v Morton – Match Preview  

by Russell Gordon 

With only a small concern over the possibility of Morton ending up in the relegation play-offs, and the play-offs at the right end of the table now arithmetically out of reach after a dismal seven weeks or so since Morton’s sixteen match unbeaten run came to an end, the irresistible force meets the immoveable object as our favourites make what could be their last trip to Gayfield for a while to visit already relegated Arbroath. 

While there aren’t many fixtures in this division that either team will relish, such is the turgid form of both, this is perhaps a game that Dougie Imrie and Jim McIntyre will look towards to provide some cheer at a time that points have been at a premium for both. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Squad News 

There’s no secret that injuries have played their part in Morton’s late season decline, with talismanic striker George Oakley joining Lewis Strapp on the sidelines for the visit of Dundee United last Friday. 

There’s no indication of a return for either, but I suspect the withdrawal of Iain Wilson at half time last week was merely a case of Imrie managing the midfielder’s game time in order to aid his recovery. 

Imrie’s has also had his defensive woes of late, but he can consider himself lucky that Jack Baird hasn’t received a call from the Compliance Officer, after Morton’s vice-captain appeared quite conclusively to stamp on United striker Louis Moult in the first half of Friday’s defeat to the league leaders. There must have been fears that Baird would be facing at least a two match ban, but those appear unfounded. 

The manager could rotate again, with the likes of Michael Garrity and Jack Bearne pushing for Jai Quitongo’s place in the side, and the possibility of Robbie Muirhead dropping back should Oakley make a return to the starting XI. 

Current Connections  

Since the departure of Bobby Linn from Arbroath last summer, the only remaining player connecting the two clubs is between the Arbroath sticks. 

Derek Gaston was a popular figure in his seven years at Cappielow between 2012 and 2019, after arriving from Albion Rovers. making a significant contribution and bagging a League One winners’ medal in 2015 as Morton returned to Scotland’s second tier. 

After leaving Morton in 2019, Gaston moved onto newly promoted Arbroath, who allowed him to go part time to let him concentrate on furthering a career in coaching. Gaston’s contribution at Gayfield has been equally significant, playing a pivotal role in the Red Lichties’ incredible 2021-22 season in which they were pipped to the post for the Championship title by Kilmarnock. 

Though he hasn’t seen as much first team action this term, this may well be the last time the Arbroath custodian comes face-to-face with his former employers. 

Tale of the Tape  

It’s quite inconsiderate of Arbroath to go and get relegated, just as Morton finally manage to break their hoodoo against our friends from Angus. 

Their final win of their incredible run of thirteen games without defeat in the fixture came in August at Cappielow, as Arbroath registered a 3-0 victory over Morton as the visitors recorded their first league success of the campaign on a day the Morton’s early season optimism evaporated in alarming fashion. 

Kirk Broadfoot was penalised for handball in the box in the twentieth minute, allowing Michael McKenna to convert from the spot to give the visitors a surprise lead. That lead was doubled with fourteen minutes remaining when Iain Wilson, debuting on his return to the club from Queen of the South, turned the ball into his own net, before Joao Balde put the lid on a miserable afternoon for the ‘Ton by adding a fourth right on the final whistle. 

The hoodoo though, was finally broken in early December when Morton travelled to Gayfield and included the returning Lewis Strapp in the matchday squad. With their early-season injury woes beginning to clear, Lewis McGrattan got on the end of a beautiful through ball from Jack Bearne to give Morton a first half lead before Arbroath stalwart David Gold levelled the affair on the hour. 

However, with eleven minutes to go, Morton utilised a weapon that they had been deprived of all season, as Strapp’s long throw was nodded on by Robbie Muirhead and landed at the feet on George Oakley, who turned and rifled the ball into the net to give Morton a long overdue victory. 

Arbroath’s visit in January was a more straight-forward affair, though Morton did make heavy work of their 3-0 victory against ten-man Arbroath who lost the experienced Keghan Jacobs to two quickfire bookings in the 25th and 26th minutes. 

It took two penalties, from Robbie Muirhead on 63 minutes and Grant Gillespie in the 82nd, sandwiching a fine 75th minute George Oakley goal to give Morton the points against an Arbroath side for whom relegation was beginning to loom large by that stage of the season. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Opposition Analysis  

There’s no hiding from it, Arbroath have endured a miserable campaign, with their relegation rubber stamped last weekend by a 0-5 Somerset Park drubbing. They’ve failed to pick up a single point since their remarkable, and not-at-all-funny 3-2 comeback victory over big-spending Raith Rovers. Seven consecutive defeats have followed, and over the course of the season there have been a number of heavy drubbings, with a 0-17 aggregate to champions-elect Dundee United the most damning statistic. 

The departure of long-serving manager Dick Campbell after their shock Scottish Cup exit to League Two Spartans ended up quite a messy affair, and the appointment of his successor, man-of-many-club Jim McIntyre, just hasn’t proven to be a success on any measurable scale. 

I spoke to our friend from the east coast, Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) about Arbroath’s dismal campaign and his hopes for the match and going forward in League One: 

“With relegation confirmed after a 0-5 defeat by Ayr last week, it’s all about pride for Arbroath. 

In truth, it’s been an incredibly difficult season for all at Gayfield. The horrendous injury situation, that at one point saw twelve players sidelined, had a hugely detrimental impact on the club and forced its hand into making emergency signings. 

But the simple fact is that the team hasn’t been good enough over the course of the season to survive. They deserve to finish bottom. 

There have been a lot of poor performances and too many uncharacteristic hammerings. The club’s success was built on a solid backline, but injuries and loss of form have driven a wedge through that. 

Where does the club go now? Financially, it’s on a solid footing. The club has made a lot of sound commercial decisions and has strong links to local businesses and the wider community. 

But on the park there needs to be, and will be, a big rebuild job. 

It’s not going to be easy, but the re-signing of key player Scott Stewart on a new two-year deal is a welcome boost and he’ll be a crucial player going forward. There is such a strong affinity between players such as Stewart, David Gold, Tam O’Brien, Michael McKenna and Derek Gaston., and if Arbroath can hold onto their core players and add quality then they can make a fist of it next term. 

Until then though, they need to make an impact in their final three Championship games. 

Morton used to be a game Arbroath fans relished, on the back of an unbeaten record that evaporated this season. 

But on the back of a public meeting between manager Jim McIntyre, long-serving David Gold and the fans, it will be interesting to see how the team and the home support react.” 

What’s Happening Elsewhere? 

After United’s resounding victory at Cappielow last Friday, the winning post is in sight for Jim Goodwin’s side, who sit six points clear at the top of the pile with only three games remaining. 

The Arabs will have their eyes glued to their TVs on Friday night, as big-spending Raith Rovers’ visit to an Inverness side who dragged themselves out of the relegation play-off place with a vital win at Hampden that saw them overtake their hosts Queen’s Park, last weekend. Should the lavish-spending lino cutters fail to win, a victory for United at home to Ayr will see the champagne corks popping at Tannadice, although in truth, such is their massive goal difference advantage, any result in Inverness coupled with a Dundee United victory will effectively guarantee the title. 

More pertinently for Morton- should Raith win on Friday, a Morton victory would mean that the Highlanders could only finish level on points with Morton at the season’s conclusion, and that would rely on them beating the ‘Ton at the Caledonian Stadium on the final day. 

The other match directly affecting Morton is Queen’s Park’s visit to Dunfermline. With the Spiders sitting five points behind Morton, the ‘Ton could be guaranteed to finish above the Glasgow side should results go as hoped. Heaven forbid, Morton lose and both Inverness and Queen’s Park win, but we’ll worry about that at 5pm on Saturday! 

In the final match, Partick host Airdrie in a dress rehearsal for the play-off quarter final. Yuck. 

Elsewhere in Scotland, the Scottish Cup semi-finals take centre stage, as Celtic face Aberdeen at Hampden on Saturday and Morton’s quarter-final conquerors, Hearts, travel to the National Stadium to face Rangers. 

With the League One, League Two and Lowland League titles all done and dusted, there’s a box office finish to the Highland League season, with Buckie Thistle sitting in the box seat, on 78 points with a goal difference of 63 goals, while nearest challengers Brechin City are also on 78 points, but with a goal difference of 61 goals. 

Buckie have scored nine more goals and host Keith in their final game, while Brechin travel to Brora Rangers. Fraserburgh can technically still win the title, but sit three points behind the two favourites with a goal difference of 54. They do host league whipping boys Strathspey Thistle, but the likelihood of both losing while they make up the considerable goal difference is remote. 

The eventual champions travel to K-Park to play Lowland champions East Kilbride next Saturday for the play-off semi-final first leg, before hosting the Oystercatchers in a fortnight’s time for a crack at whoever finishes bottom of League Two, with Clyde currently occupying the dreaded Club 42 spot. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Betting Guide  

All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7pm on 18th April 2024 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.  

Morton are clear favourites going into the match, despite their woes of recent weeks. The visitors are priced at 8/15, with Arbroath at 4/1 and the draw at 3/1. 
 

Grant Gillespie to score anytime is 15/8 and Morton to be leading at half time and to win at full time is 6/4.

Match Officials  

Referee- Callum Scott officiates his second Morton game of the season, having stood in the middle of their 4-1 League Cup Group Stage victory over Edinburgh City. 

AR 1- Daniel McFarlane 

AR 2- Elliot Husband Powton

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