Morton v Raith Rovers 26th January 2013

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I’m no stranger to Cappielow Park, home of Greenock Morton and am here to take in their home game versus Raith Rovers as part one of a weekend double header with the League Cup Semi Final at Hampden the following day.

In our normal meticulous fashion the original plan was to go to Alloa v Stranraer but opted to leave visiting Recreation Park for a fortnight. We then targeted the home games of either Annan Athletic or Berwick but due to the weather changing in the last 48 hours both games were called off earlier in the morning due to the snow. So the text came from my Morton supporting tour comrade and we were heading down the M8, Greenock bound at 2.30pm!

Morton are sitting proudly at the top of the First Division and were up against a well organised Raith side who have done well under their young Manager, Grant Murray who was appointed last summer. The visitors also had former Ton keeper, David McGurn between the sticks and if memory serves me correctly he was quite popular down this way when he was here.

The home side announced the signing of striker Colin McMenamin from Ross County on a short term deal earlier in the week and he was paraded by Chairman, Douglas Rae prior to kick off. He will now know in future that you need to remember the name of the person you’re introducing before wandering onto the pitch asking everyone to welcome “Alan McMenamin!”

The first 45 minutes wasn’t pretty though it did pass by relatively quick. Both teams played quite high up the pitch meaning when the ball was cleared or played over the top both Assistant Referee’s were quick to raise their flags for offside. In fact during one incident early in the second half, the far side linesman called a Morton player offside. There followed a kind of rare silence of a few seconds in the crowd, when you hear a lone voice heckle the official which in this case went like, “hey linesman, al shove that flag up your ar*e”! The official himself found it very funny as did the rest of the support situated in the ‘cow shed’ terracing and it was good to see some good natured humour between fans and officials.

There were very few clear cut chances for either side in the first half and not many efforts on target to really trouble either keeper. Rovers probably ended the half the stronger side having forced a couple of corners in quick succession and a free kick which came to nothing. This left both sides going in at the break goalless and would imagine the Kirkaldy boss was the happier of the two managers.

Morton had started out with a cagey formation of leaving one man up front in Peter MacDonald with the intended support coming from Tidser and Hardie in the central midfield area and from Graham and O’Brien on the wings. This never really materialised and Allan Moore introduced new man McMenamin for Graham at the interval which changed the home team’s approach in the second period.

Only seven minutes after the restart Morton took the lead and it was a strike worthy of any top league in Europe! After some inter changing play on the left between O’Brien and Hardie, the ball was put into the box but cleared by Anderson. It fell to the well placed Michael Tidser who cracked a left foot volley into the net from 25 yards out leaving McGurn with absolutely no chance.

Not long after losing the goal, McGurn made a great reaction save to his right from a McMenamin header to keep Rovers in the game. Morton were under a bit of pressure and made a tactical switch with around 15 minutes left, putting on stalwart Peter Weatherson for MacDonald as an option to hold the ball up and try to take the pressure off the rest of the team. In the opposite camp, Grant Murray went for broke putting on forward Greig Spence for midfielder Stuart Anderson in an attempt to get something from the game.

Spence gave Raith a bit more height up front as well as support to Brian Graham and the latter put a shot over the bar when he maybe should have done better. Morton lost centre half Kevin Rutkiewicz through injury and the visitors tried to capitalise on this by putting numerous crosses into the box but Derek Gaston coped admirably with anything that came his way and one save in particular was very impressive.

The home fans were getting anxious but there wasn’t that much injury time and Tidser’s wonder strike turned out to be a worthy winner. It was another welcome 3 points to extend their lead at the top of the table and ensured the majority of the 2,006 crowd went home happy.

Cappielow is set back just off the main road as you pass through into Greenock with car showrooms on either side of it. There is designated car parking which will set you back a couple of pounds and street parking in behind it though it’s useful to know some of the local short cuts to get back onto the main roads.

Adjacent to the official parking area is the entrance to three ends of the ground, the main stand, the terracing behind the goal and the popular ‘cow shed’ which has both seating and standing areas available. The club do a parent and child gate and the prices are fair and competitive for the First Division.

Away fans get a small section at the far end of the main stand and for larger away crowds there is open terracing behind the other goal which can be used as and when required. It’s a very compact wee ground with a playing surface that has a great reputation within the country. No matter where you sit or stand you will get a decent view of the game though there are a few pillars which can obscure your view but not significantly.

The club have invested in the upkeep and improvements of the ground along with rectifying damage caused by vandalism that sporadically takes place. I’ve sat or stood in every area of the ground and rarely seen a bad or uneventful game when i’ve come here and enjoy coming to watch the football. My eldest boy saw his first ever game at Cappielow in December 2003 when Morton were in Division 2 and they beat Arbroath 6-4 in a fascinating encounter with matching scoreline!

The current team are having a great season and who knows, Cappielow could be hosting Premier League football here next season.

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