A lacklustre finale
Published: 11 May 2009 12:30
It may not have been a Highland "Host" who accompanied the Dingwall men down to Cappielow, but the noisy County faithful at the Wee Dublin End of the main stand were in full voice long before the end of the match.
By the conclusion of the afternoon the visitors, keen for a victory which would ensure their absence from the relegation play-off, got their due rewards and finished on the same points total as their hosts.
A month ago Morton"s clarion cry was of pushing for promotion. Four successive defeats later it all seemed such an anti-climax.
The brutal truth is that these four games have exposed Morton"s true status. There is some way to go yet before they can begin to think of themselves as a side capable of a sustained challenge.
It is no coincidence that in the last three of those games they have been without Allan Jenkins in centre midfield. His strength and ability to drive forward have been badly missed.
But it is a team game, and Morton"s limitations have too often been exposed. You don"t lose 13 games in the course of a season if you have genuine championship qualifications.
It is true that some improvement has been achieved, but it is also true that, while enormously competitive, this league hardly has been fought out by quality teams.
St Johnstone were well worth their title win, but they will know they need to add to their squad if they are to stay up. Dunfermline continued to be big under-achievers and perhaps need a clear-out, Dundee were an average side who clearly missed quality players such as Kevin McDonald, Scott Robertson and Paul Dixon, all transferred pre-season.
Partick Thistle did superbly to finish second. But who would Morton take from the Thistle ranks to bolster their first team? Gary Harkins certainly and probably David Rowson and Liam Buchanan. If others under-achieved, Thistle over-achieved.
As for Queen of the South, they are a side in decline whose main priority I would suggest is to stay in the First Division next time round.
The point is that this league may be the tightest anyone can remember, but it is well short on the more refined aspects of the game, as witnessed too by the stoic refusal for so long of modest Clyde and Airdrie teams to become detached.
There is a big job to be done yet at Cappielow to shape Morton into a side with real aspirations.
It was one of those typical Scottish afternoons combining all the seasons, torrential rain being punctuated with beautifully sunny intervals.
The match at New Broomfield succumbed to the downpour, but Cappielow, as ever under the tender care of groundsman Mark Farrell, was in surprisingly good condition, only a 10-yard strip down the standside of the pitch proving impossibly sodden.
Before the game there were presentations in driving rain to skipper Stewart Greacen of the Sir William Lithgow Trophy as the club"s Player of the Year, voted for by Telegraph readers, as well as the Andy Ritchie Travel Club award. He is a worthy winner of both trophies.
County then began the game by forcing a couple of corners, but gradually Morton began to dictate the play. An excellent Jim McAlister cross from the left ought to have brought better reward than Iain Russell"s wayward, free header from eight yards.
Stevie Masterton then robbed Brewster in midfield to release Russell on the left only for his shot to be touched round the far post by Soutar.
Half-time arrived with precious little to talk about.
Five minutes into the restart a good delivery by young Carlo Monti from the left was met by Ryan McGuffie whose looping header was touched over by the visiting keeper.
In 51 minutes Ross County ought to have done better when McCulloch was set up inside the box only to drag a poor shot wide of the right post from 16 yards.
County made the breakthrough in 55 minutes when McCulloch"s long throw from the left was directed on by Brewster and Brittain pounced to send a drive past Cuthbert from 12 yards.
Substitutions were made on either side but it was the Dingwall men who took the initiative with a second, decisive goal in 67 minutes. Hart had just come on and produced a superb cross from wide left and there was Higgins, unmarked at the back post, to side-foot home from close range.
That was met by a chorus of boos from the home support.
With home fans streaming out of the ground, Morton attempted a late rally and they were unfortunate in 84 minutes when Masterton"s neat ball to Russell on the left resulted in a drive which hit the right post and was cleared for a corner.
That was the closest Morton came on an afternoon not many with Cappielow affiliations will care to recall.
The final whistle blew as a blessed relief for them.
MORTON (3-1-4-2): Cuthbert 6; Greacen 6, McManus 6, Walker 5; Masterton 5; Finlayson 5 (Wake 65 5), McGuffie 6, Monti 6, McAlister 6; Weatherson 5 (Grady 65 4), Russell 5.
Subs not used - Smith, Paartalu, McWilliams.
ROSS COUNTY (4-3-1-2): Soutar; Downie, Boyd, Watt, Golabek; Brittain, Lawson, McCulloch; Higgins (Gardyne 85); Brewster (Daal 78), Stewart (Hart 62).
Subs not used - Scott, Malin.
Bookings: Higgins 68.
Referee: Stuart Dougall 7.
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