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Match Preview - Morton vs Raith Rovers (27th April)



Morton v Raith Rovers – Match Preview 

by Russell Gordon 

With Morton’s place in the Championship secured for another season, and their big-spending visitors Raith Rovers’ place in second all but confirmed at the time of writing, but most probably set in stone by the time the match kicks off, Cappielow Park supported by Dalrada Technology hosts the deadest of dead-rubbers on the penultimate weekend of the season. 

All that is at stake for Dougie Imrie’s side is the incentive to finish fifth in the league and coin in a few more quid in prize money as they build towards next season, while their profligate visitors will have one eye on a play-off semi-final in May against Airdrie or Partick. 

Match tickets are available at the below link: 

Fanbase | Select Ticket (fanbaseclub.com) 


Photo - GBR Photographs.

Squad News 

With Lewis Strapp and Iain Wilson missing the remaining games, I wouldn’t expect too much by way of changes to the starting XI. It was of course, a delight to see George Oakley back in the team, and to see he and Robbie Crawford back on the score sheet. 

We could, as is often the case, see Grant Gillespie rotated with fellow veteran Alan Power, but after the club captain’s fine performance at Gayfield, he could possibly feel a bit hard done to if he doesn’t retain his starting berth. 

Darragh O’Connor could come in for Jack Baird having replaced the vice-captain on Saturday at Gayfield. 

Calum Waters will likely retain his starting berth in the absence of Strapp and a few soon-to-be-out-of-contract players could be making their last Cappielow appearances as Morton players, with the likes of Alan Power, Kirk Broadfoot, Darragh O’Connor, Robbies Muirhead and Crawford and (whisper it) George Oakley amongst others not yet tied down for next season as yet. 

Current Connections  

There aren’t too many connections in the two playing squads, with only Morton captain Grant Gillespie and reserve keeper Jamie MacDonald having represented the Kirkcaldy side. 

Gillespie spent one season in deepest, darkest Fife in season 2018-19 as they finished second in League One behind Arbroath before falling to Queen of the South in the play-off final, while MacDonald enjoyed three seasons in the Kingdom before moving onto Morton after his release this summer when the moneymen rode into town. 

Andy Millen can of course count Raith among his many former employers, while there are only a couple of family connections in the Raith squad, with Ross County loanee Kyle Turner, the son of ex-Morton midfielder Tommy, and Millen’s son Ross also on the books in Kirkcaldy. 

The full back however, hasn’t featured since their 0-1 SPFL Trust trophy semi-final defeat by Airdrie in early February after an alleged falling out with manager Ian Murray. It would appear that the big-spending Fifers’ #youbelong tagline doesn’t extend to players who have the temerity to disagree with their manager. 

Tale of the Tape  

It doesn’t make for good reading thus far. Morton visited Stark’s Park on the second day of the league season, and a performance of the ages from hapless referee David Munro set the standard for the official’s season. Having fallen behind to an early Jack Hamilton goal, Morton were two behind after fourteen minutes as the referee awarded a penalty for a Lewis Vaughan dive in the not-so-close vicinity of Darragh O’Connor, but in the clear line of Munro’s vision. Vaughan of course, doubled the big-spending Fifers’ lead from the spot and enjoyed his moment in front of the furious visiting support. 

It didn’t take long for Morton to make a game of it however, as Robbie Muirhead bulleted home a fantastic header from Lewis McGrattan’s pinpoint cross to reduce the arrears three minutes later. 

Munro then failed to send off Jack Hamilton half an hour in for a second booking on an afternoon he threw yellow cards at yellow jerseys as if it was going out of fashion. Ross Millen was also fortunate, but probably unsurprised, not to see red for an elbow on 57 minutes before Robbie Crawford stabbed home a thoroughly deserved equaliser twenty minutes from time. 

Alas, this was a game Morton were doomed to get nothing from, and despite Munro’s awful officiating throughout, it was Kirk Broadfoot who took the blame for big-spending Raith’s winner, as he was caught in possession on the halfway line by Callum Smith who went onto notch the winner. With Morton stretched late on, they were to concede an injury-time penalty, but MacDonald denied Josh Mullen from the spot and Morton were left with nothing from a game they deserved so much more from. Me? Still bitter seven months on? Absolutely. 

There could be no complaints when the moneybags Fifers came to Greenock at the end of October for a real Halloween horror show, though. Two headers from Aidan Connolly, the smallest man on the park, gave Raith a commanding lead against bottom-of-the-table Morton before Iain Wilson pulled Morton back into it early in the second half. 

Wilson was withdrawn on 62 minutes and Morton lost any impetus to get back into the game after that- a decision that surprised many watching given the influence he had on the game, but with Wilson still trying to get up to full fitness and with a Friday night game against Dunfermline coming up, Imrie was perhaps trying to manage the midfielder’s minutes. 

Morton collected their only point from Raith in their next visit to Kirkcaldy. A Morton side missing goalkeeper Ryan Mullen and star striker George Oakley looked a shadow of the team who had been unbeaten in the previous fifteen as they ground out a 0-0 draw from a pretty turgid match. In isolation, this was a decent point, but with injuries catching up with Morton, and the wheels soon to fall off, it ultimately didn’t help either side. 

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Opposition Analysis  

Our good friends from the Kingdom have enjoyed an excellent season after their takeover last summer and subsequent spending spree. The acquisitions of the likes of Josh Mullin, Jack Hamilton and Kevin Dabrowski doubtless came at a price, while they were helped by a good relationship with Dundee when they explored the loan market. 

As the early season pacesetters, the big-spending Fifers went on a sixteen-match unbeaten run of their own between defeats at Airdrie in September and January. The highlight of that run was of course a December victory at Tannadice against Dundee United, and that was followed up with a late win against the Terrors at Stark’s Park in February, while they’ve enjoyed five wins in their six derbies against Dunfermline across various competitions this season. With those victories against their nearest rivals competitively and geographically, Raith have taken to rubbing their opponents’ noses in it across their social media channels, which hasn’t gone down well in some quarters, and has had the consequence of blowing up in their face later in the season, especially as United have slid into the Premiership at their expense. 

With the title gone, they do of course have the chance of promotion through the play-offs, but their haphazard form in recent weeks will need to be addressed if they are to get the better of Partick or bogey-team Airdrie, never mind potential top flight opponents Ross County or St. Johnstone. 

I suppose I should say something nice about them- their backs-to-the-wall victory at Inverness last weekend took the pressure off Morton somewhat going into last weekend’s game. Just don’t expect me to be expressing much gratitude to Lewis Vaughan for his winning goal, though! 

What’s Happening Elsewhere? 

There’s a party in Airdrie on Friday night as Dundee United roll into town with the title effectively secured. Six points and thirty-six goals better off than big-spending Raith Rovers, it’s in the bag, but a point against an Airdrie team that will be bruised from last weekend’s Firhill shellacking will finish the job in front of the BBC Scotland cameras. 

Dunfermline and Ayr aren’t quite safe yet, but it’ll take a lot for them to end up in the play-offs. The Pars host Inverness and only a large goal difference swing can send them down. Inverness’s plight however, is a more serious concern. With their well-publicised financial problems growing arms and legs, avoiding the drop is essential for them. While getting a result in Fife will be a tall enough order, they’ll have an eye on ninth placed Queen’s Park’s trip to Arbroath. 

Thistle Manager Duncan Ferguson’s disparaging remarks prior to the Red Lichties’ defeat to Morton didn’t show him or his club in the best of lights, and like our opponents this weekend, he may be advised to keep his counsel for fear of it coming back to bite him when things don’t go his way. 

Elsewhere in Scotland, Livingston’s inevitable relegation to the Championship could be confirmed this weekend if they lose to Ross County, while on Sunday the title contenders take on the two teams chasing the final Europa Conference League place. All I’ll say is good luck Dundee, and even that is through gritted teeth. 

Down in League One, with Hamilton and Alloa already having secured their play-off places, Montrose can join them if they better Cove’s result. The Gable Endies visit Kelty, while Cove travel to a Queen of the South team who aren’t quite out of the woods at the bottom of the table yet. With Annan hosting Falkirk and Stirling, two points behind visiting relegated Edinburgh City, the Binos will look at the weekend as their big opportunity to get out of the play-off place. 

Stenhousemuir will collect their first ever league trophy at home to Bonnyrigg, who will be looking to keep clear of bottom place, sitting two points clear of Stranraer and three ahead of Clyde. 

If Bonnyrigg and Stranraer, who visit Forfar, both win, Clyde will be playing for snookers on the final day to avoid going into the end of season play-off with Lowland League champions East Kilbride. 

After last weekend’s dramatic end to the Highland League season, eventual champions Buckie were on Thursday denied a place in the pyramid play-offs for failing to meet licensing criteria, leaving the Oystercatchers to wait for a fortnight while their opponents play out to avoid the head-to-head. An unsavoury end to the season that shows neither Buckie, the SFA, nor the SPFL in a good light in my own humble opinion. 


Photo - GBR Photographs.

Betting Guide  

All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7pm on 25th April 2024 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.  

Home advantage makes Morton the slightest of favourites at 29/20, with the big spending Fifers priced at 13/8. The draw comes in at 9/4. 

Grant Gillespie is priced at 11/1 to score the first goal, and a draw at half time and Morton win at full time is 19/4. 

Match Officials  

Referee- Colin Steven takes charge of his second Morton game of the season, having taken the 0-0 draw in Inverness just before the new year. 

AR 1- Paul McAvinue 

AR 2- Colin McAlpine 


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