MORTON versus Raith Rovers
Saturday 14 January 2017
Cappielow Park, Greenock
Morton host Raith Rovers at Cappielow today in a Ladbrokes Championship fixture that could have ramifications in the race for the promotion play-offs.
Jim Duffy’s side are currently sat third in the table, six points ahead of the fifth-placed Kirkcaldy outfit, and a home win would see them stretch their lead to nine.
However, a Rovers side with ex-Ton players Declan McManus and Bobby Barr will arrive in Greenock determined that will not be the case and fully intent on closing the gap to three points with a victory.
The Ton have bolstered their ranks in the build up to the encounter, with Lawrence Shankland arriving at Cappielow on loan from Aberdeen to add another layer of intrigue to 90 minutes that already promised to be compelling viewing.
Jim Duffy told gmfc.net: “We’re not looking at the play-off situation, not at all. It’s too early. There are still 16 or 17 games to go, and clubs think two or three games and they can be up there – and they can.
“So that tells you how difficult it is, and all you can focus on is the Raith Rovers game and not think about what might happen in April or something like that.
“It’s tough enough in this division without looking at the possibilities of what might happen months ahead, so for me it’s just straightforward: Raith Rovers, give it everything you’ve got and see whether that’s good enough on the day.
“We found it awkward against them last year, and this year we found it awkward but managed to find a way to win [at Cappielow in October] and that’s always good just psychologically.
“It’s not always something that I look at, what’s behind us, but if you haven’t beaten a team for a while and manage to get a result, it definitely helps in terms of that belief again.
“But you still realise they are a very difficult side to play against. Although they didn’t have a great result last week, the game changed within a minute, going from being 1-0 up and forcing a great save to being 1-1 in the space of a minute.
“They have a very strong squad and just signed Ryan Stevenson and Ryan Hardie there and have Bobby Barr back fit again, so it will be another competitive game.
“We are a bit healthier with Gary [Oliver] back available again, the paperwork was concluded for Lawrence Shankland and Ricki [Lamie] was able to train and hopefully he’ll be in the squad, although maybe not ready to start the game.”
Long-term absentees Conor Pepper and Jai Quitongo are both out as is Kudus Oyenuga (hamstring) while converted right-back Jamie McDonagh serves the second of his two-match suspension.
However, Gary Oliver and Ricki Lamie have both been able to train this week and are available for selection, as is new signing Lawrence Shankland after his loan move was finalised yesterday afternoon.
Striker Declan McManus spent three separate and successful loan spells with us here at Cappielow, scoring 23 goals, laying on eight assists, and picking up the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award in the League One title winning campaign.
The 22-year-old returned on loan from Fleetwood Town in January and went on to make 20 starts and score four goals as Jim Duffy’s men finished fifth in the Championship.
Winger Bobby Barr was snapped up from Brechin City last year and spent a solitary season on Sinclair Street, making a positive contribution during 37 starts and five substitute appearances, before agreeing a pre-contract with Raith Rovers.
Goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert spent three seasons between the sticks at Cappielow between 2008 and 2011, making 58 appearances over the course of his stay.
Sat 3 Oct 2015: Raith Rovers 2-1 Morton (Ladbrokes Championship)
Fri 18 Dec 2015: Morton 1-2 Raith Rovers (Ladbrokes Championship)
Sat 27 Feb 2016: Raith Rovers 3-2 Morton (Ladbrokes Championship)
Sat 1 Oct 2016: Morton 1-0 Raith Rovers (Ladbrokes Championship)
Last Time Out
A sensational Ross Forbes free-kick saw Morton overcome the odds to achieve a feat they failed to accomplish in four attempts last season by beating bogey team Raith Rovers.
The Greenock men have not had their troubles to seek with injuries this term and went into the meeting minus the services of skipper Lee Kilday, Ricki Lamie, Conor Pepper, Michael Tidser, and Kudus Oyenuga.
Yet, despite more hurdles being placed in their path by lady luck as influential defender Gavin Gunning and goalkeeper Andy McNeil were both forced off, a resilient Ton team dug deep to pick up a hard-earned three points at Cappielow.
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Assistant one: Mark McLean
Assistant two: William Wilson
Entry is pay at the gate and admission prices are:
Adult – £18
Concession – £15
Parent and child under 16 – £18
Child aged 12 to 16 – £5
Child under 12 accompanied by an adult – Free
As part of our Burns-themed hospitality day, the teams will be piped onto the park by Gryffe High School pupil Matthew Hill, 14, who is a member of the 1st Houston Boys and Girls Brigade pipe band.
Image: David Bell