MORTON begin competitive action in the Betfred Cup today against Berwick Rangers — and boss Jim Duffy insists he and his players are raring to go.

Ton travel to Shielfield Park for the first group stage clash of the tournament and Duffy reckons it’s only natural to be feeling excited about the real deal after going through the pre-season friendly schedule.

He told the Tele: “Of course you always start the new season with a degree of anticipation and excitement, that’s the way it should be. 

“It’s not been that long since the season finished and it comes around quickly, but that’s the way football is these days.

“From the players’ point of view it’s all about getting into competitive action and once you’ve got half a dozen or so games under your belt you have a better opportunity to assess things.

“I don’t put too much stock in pre-season matches, simply because they don’t really have any bearing on what can happen in the season because they’re not the same intensity or as competitive.

"It’s really only once the proper matches start that you’ve got any idea how your team is looking.

“But it doesn’t matter whether they’re playing a friendly or competitive match, confidence is the thing. But it doesn’t just take a couple of weeks for players to gain confidence or gel, it can take months at times. 

“But the players are looking forward to getting back to competitive action.”

The Greenock men will be without skipper Lee Kilday and vice-captain Thomas O’Ware for the trip to the Borders, as well as young left-back Lewis Strapp who is still feeling the effects of concussion suffered in a friendly against Stenhousemuir.  

Duffy admits he’s frustrated to be left without key players, all of whom are defensive options.

But the experienced manager says he won’t be making any unnecessary short-term deals with defenders to cover his missing stars.

He said: “We didn’t think Lee would be ready but we thought Thomas would be. But obviously they’re both missing and are very important players for us. 

“Lewis Strapp is missing as well after the game against Stenhousemuir a few weeks ago, so we’re definitely stretched defensively.

“But we’ve got to be careful about that, if you sign players on a short-term and then these guys are back fit again, you’re overloaded so it’s all about trying to manage the situation at this moment in time.

"We haven’t played a competitive match yet and we’ve already got two central defenders missing.

“These things can happen and we’ve got to deal with it as best we can, and for me I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday but concentrating on the players we have.”

The manager is happy with the pre-season preparations and says there is an air of optimism at Parklea.

But he says the proof of the pudding will be today when the domestic campaign gets under way in the League Cup at Shielfield Park.

Duffy added: “Every team in the country is always going to be optimistic at this stage of preparations because everyone comes in, there’s a bit of enthusiasm and of course a bit of energy and there’s not one team in the country that won’t feel the same.

“You don’t really know until you’re in the mix but where we are at the moment the enthusiasm is there and the energy levels are where you would expect.

“It’s now just about getting the balance and organisation and that’s what we’re trying to improve on day by day.”