IT has not been the happiest of starts to the New Year for Morton after they slipped five points off the pace at the top of League One and lost their top scorer and key player.

A home defeat against Airdrie was not the way anyone at Cappielow wanted to start 2015, nor would prolific on-loan striker Declan McManus have relished signing off on such a low note after a goal laden spell in Greenock.

With just over half the season played, a huge four months now lies ahead as the club bids to return to the Championship at the first time of asking.

Most observers would surely agree it is imperative that Morton successfully secure promotion this term.

The feelgood factor has been notably missing for some time now, and as weary followers have steadily drifted away from games the crowds heading to Sinclair Street have dwindled.

Morton is a club which could be doing with a shot in the arm, and quickly.

Failure to go up now would mean another season locked out from the much more lucrative and appealing Championship and leave them running the risk of languishing in the lower reaches of Scottish football.

Not only would another season in League One undoubtedly threaten the club’s full-time status, there would also be uncomfortable questions to be asked about Morton’s longer term future and their overall standing in the Scottish game.

Immediate promotion therefore looks to be essential — but whether or not they get it could depend largely on the players Jim Duffy brings in during the transfer window.

He had to assemble a new squad in the summer and with Morton one of only two full-time sides in the division they were always expected to be up at the top of the league.

At times they have impressed, particularly when comprehensively outplaying principal title rivals Dunfermline and Forfar at Cappielow and when stitching together an impressive unbeaten run in late autumn.

It must be said that they have struggled at times too, and a record which shows eight losses in the league gives blatantly obvious cause for concern.

Their recent form has also been far from convincing, with dramatic comebacks against Brechin and Stirling showing admirable levels of spirit but also a fair degree of papering over the cracks.

Performances like these meant that the need to strengthen the squad was apparent even before McManus returned to Aberdeen.

Some other players have already moved on to help make way — Jordan Allan, Robbie Crawford, David McNeil and Reece Hands — and the pressure is now firmly on the management team to find the right faces to come in and make a tangible difference to their team.

It will not be easy, with the January window a notoriously difficult market to operate in.

Morton’s principal need, I’d argue, is to augment what is essentially quite a young and at times fragile group with some experience.

They do not look a particularly streetwise side and a bit of nous and dig in central midfield would go a long way to sorting out some of the problems which have bedevilled them all season.

If this would also enable Thomas O’Ware to return to central defence, stay there and build up a settled partnership with someone then so much the better.

Ton’s defensive frailty and a steady stream of changes across the back four would suggest that Duffy may also be in the market for fresh blood in that department too.

Up front, the exit of McManus creates a considerable headache and the current injury to Jon Scullion simply makes matters more acute.

It is all very well saying that a fresh loan could be agreed with Aberdeen if McManus does not get a look in at Pittodrie, but how long can Morton realistically afford to wait before looking elsewhere?

In McManus they had a player who brought pace, the ability to unsettle defences, score out of nothing and fashion chances for others.

Talents like him do not grow on trees and until new additions are found Morton will have to look to the likes of Andy Barrowman and Jamie McCluskey to step up to the plate and deliver more goals.

As a collective unit, the team must also wisen up fast and cut out the silly mistakes, poor discipline and concentration lapses which have been their undoing on far too many occasions.

Saturday’s match saw them concede a goal right after half-time yet again, following similar scenarios against Peterhead and Stranraer, and frankly there can be little excuse for repeated episodes like this.

The Greenock men have a chance to put things right when they travel to Ochilview to face Stenhousemuir but they would be well advised not to read too much into Stenny’s lowly league position.

Scott Booth’s side have already sent Morton packing once this term and have also claimed other notable scalps by defeating Dunfermline and seeing off Stranraer a couple of weeks ago.

They showed the other side of their character last Saturday when they lost at home to Stirling, giving the visitors only their second victory of the season.

This is the sort of inconsistency to be expected of a team near the bottom of the table and that’s precisely why Morton, as promotion contenders, really ought to win this game tomorrow and buy themselves a bit of breathing space while the necessary reinforcements are lined up.

TEAM LATEST MORTON are without goalkeepers Derek Gaston (thigh) and Nicolas Caraux (groin) but trialist Grant Adam is set to sign a deal until the end of the season and should deputise between the sticks.

Jim Duffy is also suffering from something of a crisis in the striking department, with Declan McManus back at Aberdeen, Jon Scullion still sidelined with a knee injury and Stefan McCluskey, pictured, and Andy Barrowman both rated doubtful due to hamstring problems.

The Ton boss is hoping to add to his squad before Saturday’s match with Stenhousemuir but had not made any new additions at the time of going to press.

TRAVEL NOTES THE Albert Hotel Morton Supporters are now taking bookings for the bus to Ochilview Park for tomorrow’s Scottish League One game against Stenhousemuir. The bus will leave the hotel at 1.30pm. The club are also taking bookings for next week’s League One match away to Ayr United.

All are welcome with pick-ups available en-route. To book a seat on any of these buses call or text Jim on 079836 00945.

THE Morton Supporters’ Club bus to the Stenhousemuir game leaves the club at 1pm tomorrow. To book a seat phone the club on 01475 888273 or email You can also leave a message on the club’s Twitter page at