MORTON boss Allan Moore yesterday offered new contracts to nine first-team players as he seeks to retain the core of the squad that finished as First Division runners-up this term.

He tabled fresh one-year deals to keeper Derek Gaston, defenders Scott Taggart, Craig Reid, Thomas O'Ware, Willie Dyer, and Mark McLaughlin, midfielder David O'Brien and strikers Peter MacDonald and Archie Campbell.

Fouad Bachirou, Tony Wallace, and First Division Player of the Year nominee Michael Tidser, all have a year to run on their present deals.

The only players to be axed in the meetings at the club's Quarrier's Village training facility were back-up goalie David Hutton, midfielder Kyle Wilkie and long-serving frontman Peter Weatherson.

However, they join David Graham, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Martin Hardie, Jordan Halsman, and Colin McMenamin - all of whom had already departed - in moving on to pastures new. Manager Moore is keen to keep the nucleus of the group in place but admits the ball is now in the players' courts as he waits for them to come back to him with their decisions.

Moore told the Tele: "We held the meetings with the players at Quarrier's yesterday and we've offered contracts to nine of the boys who have done really well for us this season.

"Archie Campbell, Scott Taggart, Derek Gaston, Willie Dyer, Peter MacDonald, Mark McLaughlin, Craig Reid, Thomas O'Ware and David O'Brien have all been made offers.

"Kyle Wilkie, David Hutton and Peter Weatherson are the only players we let go yesterday. It is a difficult thing you have to do as a manager and something I was dreading to be honest.

"Martin Hardie, David Graham, Kevin Rutkiewicz, who's away to America, Colin McMenamin and Jordan Halsman, who's away to Iceland, had all already left. With Kyle we felt we needed a holding midfielder instead, someone with a bit more presence in the middle of the park. We'll need to see how the budget goes before we can assess another keeper.

"We haven't let as many go as we have in previous years because we do think we have the nucleus of a good team there, and we've still got Freddy, Tidser and Tony Wallace."

The nine individuals who have been offered new terms will be given the chance to mull over the contracts before being asked for their decision.

But while Moore will give them time to consider their options, he admits he can't wait forever and will have to contemplate possible replacements in the chance that the contracts aren't accepted.

He added: "The players we've spoken to have been offered one-year contracts and they'll now go away and think about the offers and come back to us. We didn't want to decimate the team because we felt it has done well this year.

"We have offered contracts to the boys who we think can keep us going next year.

"A lot of the boys are still young and learning.

"Wee Archie, Taggs, and Thomas, boys like that, have still got things to learn and will have benefited from another season.

"Whether they'll accept what we've offered them is another matter.

"We can't second guess them and will have to see what they say, but we're hopeful.

"But I've said to them that just because I've offered them something doesn't mean I won't be looking elsewhere because I don't know what answers we'll get.

"It might be tomorrow that they phone me back, it might be next week, but we're hopeful we can keep that nucleus together.

"After the players come back to us we'll see what we've got left in the budget to see who else we can bring in.

"We'll also be looking to bring on some of our younger boys from the reserves because it will be a slighter younger team next year.

"On that basis, we'll be having a meeting with Warren Hawke, David Hopkin and the youth coaches to have a discussion on who merits maybe having the opportunity to come in on a full-time basis."