Hibernian versus MORTON
Wednesday 29 March 2017
Easter Road, Edinburgh
Morton travel through to Easter Road tonight to face Ladbrokes Championship league leaders Hibernian in a rearranged match originally scheduled for Saturday 4 March.
Neil Lennon’s side tightened their grip on top spot with a win over second-placed Falkirk at the weekend, and another victory tonight would see them overwhelming favourites to go on and clinch the title.
Ton, though, head to the capital with an opportunity to loosen the hosts’ hold. Should the Greenock men triumph, they would close the gap to seven points with a game in hand and both sides still to meet at Cappielow.
A draw would be enough to push Jim Duffy’s men – who Lennon has described as his outfit’s nearest rivals – above the Bairns into the runners-up spot.
The last meeting in Leith saw Hibs run out emphatic 4-0 winners, and the Ton will need to perform to the levels that saw them draw 1-1 at Cappielow in December if they are to take anything from this evening’s encounter.
Jim Duffy told gmfc.net: “It’s a game you should look forward to. There will be a terrific atmosphere, a really healthy crowd, and for us to play in that type of environment is fantastic.
“It makes me smile when we’re in such a big game. Whereas I don’t think too many people would have looked at March and said Hibs v Morton could be a defining match of the season.
“So it’s a compliment to us that we have Neil Lennon saying: ‘We have two big matches coming up against Falkirk and Morton.’ That’s brilliant; that to me is a great compliment to the players.
“Hibs should be winning the league with the quality they’ve got if you looked on paper at the start of the season, and throughout the season with players like Andrew Shinnie, Kris Commons, and Efe Ambrose coming in.
“With that quality, strength in depth and firepower then Hibs should be winning the league and most people will think they will.
“Hibs will be out to try and give themselves that possibility of winning the title, and if they beat us they would go a long way to achieving that.
“But I’m not overly concerned with Hibs’ aspirations; it’s got nothing to do with me – that’s up to Neil Lennon. My only concern is for us to go and try and play at our best.
“We want to make it as difficult a game as we can for Hibs tonight. That’s our first priority, and we’ll see whether it’s good enough to take any points from the game.
“Tonight will be a test in terms of mental toughness, and that’s something I’m looking forward to; I’m looking to see how our players respond to that.
“Because it will be quite an intense atmosphere and one that I think is something the players should relish, but we’ll find out tonight at 7.45pm.”
Long-term absentees Conor Pepper, who will undergo an operation he hopes will save his career next month, and Jai Quitongo remain sidelined.
Skipper Lee Kilday was forced off at half-time against Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday due to an ankle injury suffered in the first half and will be touch and go tonight.
Utility man Jamie McDonagh missed the weekend loss to the Pars with a virus, but he has returned to training this week and is expected to make the matchday squad.
Morton boss Jim Duffy had a spell as Hibs manager and was in charge at Easter Road between December 1996 and February 1998.
Hibs striker Brian Graham came through the youth ranks with us here at Cappielow and went on to net 17 goals over 40 starts and 44 sub appearances, finishing as top scorer in 2010/11 with 11 in all competitions.
Wed 25 Feb 2016: Hibernian 0-3 Morton (Ladbrokes Championship)
Sat 23 Apr 2016: Morton 0-0 Hibernian (Ladbrokes Championship)
Sat 27 Aug 2016: Hibernian 4-0 Morton (Ladbrokes Championship)
Sat 17 Dec 2016: Morton 1-1 Hibernian (Ladbrokes Championship)
Last Time Out
Morton recorded a creditable 1-1 draw with league leaders Hibs at Cappielow in front of the BBC Alba cameras on a Saturday evening in mid-December to stretch their unbeaten home run to an impressive 13 matches.
Despite bolstering their ranks with the addition of a player of the calibre of Celtic’s Kris Commons on an emergency loan prior to the match, Neil Lennon’s men required a Jason Cummings free-kick to rescue a point.
The forward came off the bench to equalise just minutes after Ton hitman Gary Oliver had sent Cappielow wild by stabbing in the opening goal.
Referee: Nick Walsh
Assistant one: Sean Carr
Assistant two: Paul O’Neill
Entry is by ticket which must be purchased at the South Stand pod prior to entry. (Concessions may be asked for proof of identity to confirm eligibility):
Adult – £22
Concession – £12
Image: David Bell