MORTON boss Allan Moore fielded eight trialists as his side suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat against Sheffield United last night in their opening pre-season friendly of the summer.

In the away dugout at Cappielow was former Everton, Rangers and Scotland defender David Weir, who was taking charge of his first match as Blades boss.

And he got off to a winning start thanks to second-half sub, and former Motherwell hitman, Chris Porter's 69th-minute penalty.

The result, however, was of no real consequence. This 90 minutes was about building match fitness and for both managers to give game time to a host of contract hopefuls.

Of last year's Ton side, only Scott Taggart, Mark McLaughlin, Fouad Bachirou, David O'Brien and Archie Campbell started the match.

However, there was one further contracted player in the line-up - French goalkeeper Nicolas Caraux, who signed a one-year deal prior to the match.

The trialists, meanwhile, included former Dumbarton defender James Creaney at left-back, who took an elbow to the face with less than a minute gone.

Ton were the first to threaten when Bachirou sent Campbell scampering clear down the inside right channel, but the speedy striker's shot was charged down.

Campbell's pace continued to cause concern in the Blades camp and Michael Doyle was forced to haul him down on 18 minutes.

Greenock-born former Falkirk midfielder Dale Fulton, who was wearing the number five shirt, picked out O'Brien with a far post free-kick. But his knock down found no takers.

Clear-cut chances were at a premium in the first half, though, as Sheffield United confidently stroked the ball around, appearing content to ease into their pre-season tour of Scotland. Two Ton trialists combined to create another half chance on 31 minutes, English-Japanese midfielder Ryan Hirooka whipping over a corner which Michal Habai headed over the top.

Slovak central-half Habai was catching the eye with his aggressive style, including that of the referee who advised him to temper his combative streak after a foul on Richard Cresswell.

Habai was joined in the starting line-up by former FC Petrzalka team-mate Tomas Kamenca, who played behind Campbell in the hole. The 19-year-old showed some nice flicks and touches but didn't see enough of the ball and appeared to be carrying a knock.

For all their possession, and the attacking intent of flying left full-back Marcus Williams, the visitors only managed their first effort on goal on 37 minutes. It was almost worth the wait.

Calum McFadzean hared after a long ball over the top and, after catching it, turned and teed up the inrushing Kevin McDonald.

Scottish midfielder McDonald, who looked a superb prospect when he played against Ton for Dundee as a teenager back in season 2007-08, unleashed a fierce, low drive from 18 yards. Former RC Lens third choice keeper Caraux was equal to the effort, however, and plunged low to his left to superbly flick the ball onto the outside of the post and wide.

A break involving Campbell and O'Brien ended with the wideman slipping the ball out to the overlapping Hirooka, but he had strayed offside and the teams went in level at the break.

Both sides rang the changes at the break. Moore introduced trialists David Crawford, Sam Cox, and Tomas Peciar - the other Slovak centre-half - as well as new signing Joe McKee.

Weir, on the other hand, elected to swap his entire XI, bringing on new signings Febian Brandy and Sean McGinty and a host of faces familiar to Scottish football fans.

Trialists Danny Grainger, formerly of Hearts, and ex-Motherwell defender Steven Saunders, a Scotland cap, joined the fray.

They were accompanied by two more Fir Park old boys in Jamie Murphy and Chris Porter, while Neill Collins, who played against Ton for Dumbarton in 2004, took a place in defence.

The second half took a while to get going but burst into life for a 10-minute spell just after the hour mark.

On 63 minutes, Roy Kayara slipped Porter in on goal with a threaded through ball, but that man Caraux was proving unbeatable between the sticks and clawed his swept finish wide. Ton's reaction was immediate albeit unsuccessful, as former Hibs and Albion Rovers man Crawford fired over the top after he was gifted possession by Blades keeper George Willis.

Tony Wallace, a 59th-minute replacement for Campbell, went much closer seconds later with a dipping effort from the edge of the box which drew an acrobatic, fingertip save from Willis.

But the Blades were presented with the perfect opportunity to take the lead when, on 69 minutes, the man in the middle pointed to the spot.

Former Tottenham, Barnet, and Hayes and Yeading man Cox sent Brandy sprawling inside the box after a clumsy coming together.

Porter gave Caraux no chance this time, sending a cool spot-kick into the bottom-right corner while the goalie dived the other way. Sheffield United's second-half sub keeper, Willis, was earning his corn at the other end, preserving his side's lead with a stunning save to thwart Crawford.

Crawford blazed another opportunity over the top after under-17 graduates Craig Knight, celebrating his 17th birthday, and Mark Russell combined down the left to create an opening.

In the last minute, Wallace had a final crack at salvaging a draw with a swerving snapshot from distance, but Willis clutched the ball with both hands as United held on for the win.

Morton (4-2-3-1): Caraux (7); Taggart (6), Habai (7) (Page 59, 4), McLaughlin (6) � (Peciar 46, 6), Creaney (5) (Cox 46, 5); Bachirou (8) (Knight 76, 4), D. Fulton (6); Hirooka (5), Kamenca (6) (McKee 46, 6), O'Brien (6) (Russell 76, 4); Campbell (6) (Wallace 59, 6). Subs not used: Gaston (gk).

Sheffield United (4-4-1-1): Howard; Westlake, Maguire, Hill, Williams; McFadzean, McGinn, Doyle �, Cresswell; McDonald; Ironside. Sheff Utd Second Half: Willis; Saunders, Higginbotham, Collins, Grainger; Brandy (McFadzean, 83), Kayara, Whitehouse, McGinty, Murphy; Porter.

Attendance: 709