MORTON make a second successive trip to Angus today after their slog of a 2020-21 season was sent into extra time.

Gus MacPherson and his men fell into the play-offs courtesy of last Friday’s scoreless draw with Arbroath, ending the Championship season in ninth place, level with Ayr United on points but with a costly inferior goal difference.

They probably did not expect to be heading back up in this direction, as the Gable Endies had looked out of the frame in League One until a dramatic denouement which saw them overhaul an imploding Falkirk to finish fourth.

While they will go into this two legged affair flying and full of beans, it remains to be seen how Morton react to the bodyblow of not being able to avoid the dreaded end of season shootout.

Ton knew they’d likely need a final night victory to survive, with Ayr always likely to take something from an Inverness side with nothing to play for, but they were unable to keep their part of the bargain.

It was a game branded ‘painful’ to watch by BBC radio co-commentator Willie Miller, an apt way to end what was a dreadfully dour league campaign.

With just 22 goals to their name all season, Morton quite literally couldn’t score to save themselves as they failed to register a single attempt on goal all night, with skipper Sean McGinty’s stupid second half red card, below, leaving them a man light and seeing off any remaining faint hope.



As the disappointment sunk in, it seemed appropriate to wake on Mayday the morning after the night before, as the distress signals are there as the Greenock men fight to remain in the second tier.

While Ton have a second chance to stay in the Championship, if they are to grasp it then there is going to have to be a big turnaround to take them through their semi-final and then see off the winner of the other tie between Cove Rangers and Airdrie.

They will not want for honest, hard work — the squad have given everything they have in terms of effort but have come up short in terms of quality.

MacPherson has been at pains to stress that he cannot ask for any more in terms of endeavour from his players.

Morton's Craig McGuffie calls for quick recovery after Arbroath agony

But it does have to be said that they cannot be given a free pass for trying hard — it simply cannot be deemed acceptable for a professional, full-time squad to prove so feeble at even threatening their opponents.

The organisation and set-up of the team has on the whole been fine — the recent draws with Dundee, Motherwell and Hearts and a good defensive record attest to that.

But the manager can certainly demand more of his players in an individual sense when it comes to the other side of the game.

He made changes for the clash at Gayfield to no avail, but to be frank most if not all of the players have to do better than this.

Luca Colville, drafted into the midfield, is a player with demonstrable good technical ability but he was anonymous.

So too was Craig McGuffie, another individual more than capable of delivering a moment of magic but who never looked like having any influence on the game.

Aidan Nesbitt, as ever, was busy and always looking to get on the ball but as on far too many occasions this season there was no end product.

Nor did Stephen McGinn have the degree of impact which you would hope for from an accomplished and vastly experienced player, especially in such a big match.

With so little in the way of creativity, Gary Oliver, below, struggled to get involved and Morton could have played all night without troubling Derek Gaston in the Red Lichties’ goal.

Gary Oliver

Gary Oliver

Their lack of threat from open play was criminally compounded by a series of poor set plays.

The bottom line is Morton have been failing across the board in attack for months now and this will prove fatal unless they can show basics like a bit of imagination, some drive at defenders, better movement off the ball, a telling pass, a decent cross or even work a yard of space for a shot.

They go into the match at Links Park ahead of their opponents in the established pecking order but with these huge questions to answer.

There will be no taking Montrose lightly, that is for sure, after the recent respective results for both sides.

Over the last month Stewart Petrie’s side have beaten champions Partick Thistle and runners-up Cove Rangers, and given a good account of themselves in the Scottish Cup against Kimarnock.

They have shown that when the pressure is on they can deliver — coming from behind and grabbing late goals — so they will be given every respect as they’ve earned it.

It won’t have gone unnoticed in their ranks that Morton recently needed a last gasp penalty to avoid defeat at East Fife, and the visitors can expect their opponents to have a right go.

This might open up the game and make it a bit easier for the visitors to break out of the containment mindset they’ve had for much of the season, which seems to have blunted them, and hopefully they will finally pose some problems and put themselves in a good position before coming back to Cappielow on Tuesday night.