Morton 2 Saints 2 - League Table Here
Team : McLean, Irvine, Trialist, Millar, Rutkiewicz, James, Swankie, Hardie, Holmes, Savo, Sheerin
Subs: Main, Peaso, Caff, Weatherston, Jacko
After last week's win and the midweek cup match comeback, today saw us get our first real test on the road with a trip to take on Voodoo-Doll Irons' Greenock side. We knew it was going to be a tough game and despite recent form at Cappielow, nobody expected anything less than a bruising encounter (especially those of us stuck in their main stand and its associated knee capping design). We were top of the table going into this one and with the need to get off to a good start this season paramount, it was going to take a much better performance than the one which dispatched Livi to ensure the three points went back up the road with us. Both teams managed to bang in the goals during the week but let's face it, nobody ever goes to Greenock looking for a goalfest.
The game itself turned out to be a fairly entertaining affair with the points shared although as usual its Saints that are left kicking themselves after yet again conceding some soft goals after twice taking the lead. While there were no real individual errors we certainly seemed to tire more after the break with the home side enjoying most of the possession even if they rarely caused the Kev'n'Kev partnership any problems. Still, at least its a draw that we can take plenty of confidence from going forward.
For Saints, Liam Craig had to sit this one out after his mistimed tackle last weekend. Also missing was Collin Samuel with a hamstring strain, while both Jody and Ando were still ruled out. At least Rustybitz had recovered from his back knock to play, while Alan Main returned to the squad to replace Kelly on the bench. After the cup tie, Del had a dilemma as to which strike pairing he would start with against Morton. He ended up going for Savo and Sherlock up front with Peaso and Jackson on the bench. The rest of the lineup saw the left-back slot filled by another trialist - apparently Dan Smith of Aberdeen. Morris, Ando and Sammy were all out warming up which is a good sign. Chris Millar marked his return to his old stomping ground while for Saints fans it was a chance to see Alan McManus line up against us, while another familiar face had also joined the Cappielow side this week as the Cat joined the Greenock side. As it turned out, Chalky was on the bench but the Cat did start between the sticks.
Another decent crowd made the journey west in dismal conditions to be knee capped in the dwarf stand. Saints took the field in the Yellow Army uniform although they went for the extra dazzling effect of the white shorts. That paid off beautifully in the 3rd minute as we took the lead. Some good play saw Savo, Millar and Irvine link up. The latter took the ball wide before sending over a deep cross which was headed down by Hardie for Savo to poke home with Cuthbert nowhere. The perfect start soon saw us brought back down to earth with the sort of bang you'd associate more with events in Beijing. Sheerin, in a moment of suicidal masochism, tried to play the ball back to Euan, but it was intercepted. A simple cutback across the goal and McGuffie had an easy finish to level the game.
The hectic pace didn't let up and within a minute of the restart, James set up Holmes. He headed the ball down for Savo who laid it wide where a fired up Millar tried his luck from the edge of the box only for the Cat to parry the shot - Irvine's follow-up cross went behind. Chris got the first warning from the referee for a late foul but given the treatment he'd received in the opening exchanges he had reason to feel hard done by. Meanwhile the trialist wasn't having an easy time of it as he was nutmegged - James was on hand to clear the danger. Euan had to look sharp to gather an 8th minute throw-in while Irvine cleared a cutback a minute later after the linesman failed to flag a Morton break offside.
We were dominating most of the play and creating several chances of our own - mainly courtesy of Sherlock who saw a couple of headers go over. Cuthbert was also in the thick of things beating Hardie to a cross. On top of that, our general play in midfield was fairly solid with Swanks and Chris getting loads of room on either flank. It was Chris that had our next chance in the 18th minute as he cut inside from the right but his low drive was well held. Hardie was caught late in the 20th minute. Swankie took the freekick and beat the wall, but the ball was deflected out for a corner. That was swung over but punched clear by Cuthbert (some habits are apparently hard to break) as far as Swankie but his shot went over.
Rustybitz got in on the action next with a rare run out of defence, but despite a great ball overcome for Swankie on the left wing, the ball ended up going out. James wasn't going to be left out and he had a dribble of his own in the 24th minute but again it came to nothing. Morton had a rare chance just after that, but McAllister headed over. It was Saints that looked like extending their lead though after Swanks was clobbered by Wetherston in the 26th minute with the home player getting a ticking off from referee Brown (who didn't have the best of games). The resulting freekick was played deep into the home area where James rose up like a lanky salmon to head the ball back across the goal where it landed nicely for Swankie but his powerful drive was somehow cleared off the line by a hooped shirt. The subsequent corner ended up with Kev'n'Kev going for the same ball and sticking it wide. Swankie and Sheerin saw shots held while the home side were restricted to some ridiculous diving antics.
Mad Mental Martin was warned for a tackle in the 33rd minute but three minutes later he caused Voodoo-Boy's side more problems as they tried to sandwich the Saints midfielder. Their no 3 came off worst as he tried to barge into Hardie ending up flattened and seeing stars (the phrase "You've Been Hardied" will now enter St Johnstone folklore). After a few minutes he was stretchered off but before Irons could bring on Chalky to replace him, we took advantage of the extra man. Four minutes from the interval and some good play from the defence ended with a sublime, cutting pass through the middle of the park and behind the home defensive line. And there was Swankie cutting in from the left to match the build-up with a sweet chip over the stretching Cuthbert and into the net.
The rest of the half kept up the pace with plenty of action as Morton tried to hit back. It was the referee that was kept the busier with a couple of home dives ending up in him losing patience and booking Russell for a blatant one. Not that that cheered us up much as a nastier challenge on Sherlock in the build-up went unpunished.
The second period at least started in a more sporting manner as Cuthbert took his place in front of the Saints fans to some well- deserved applause. The half started better for Morton as they attacked from the off with the pressure causing us an additional hassle as Rustybitz seemed to pull up with a strain - he managed to run it off though. The Mental One tried his luck with a long-range attempt that went wide. Swankie had a run next in the 53rd minute but he was brought down. Saints managed to waste the freekick and the Ton immediately broke up the park. James succeeded in blocking the first cross but the second was allowed over luckily ending up in a header wide of McLean's goal. Irvine cleared the next cross and then Euan was there to catch the high ball as Morton piled on the attacks.
Unfortunately for us, the Saints midfield and attack had lost their pace with Sherlock and Hardie struggling while Millar was having little luck since the Greenock side had reorganised their defence. We were settling for a simple counter attacking style and it almost paid off in the 56th minute as a long kick out from McLean nearly found Savo in the home area but Cuthbert was sharp enough to come out and get the ball from the feet of the Saints striker. On the hour mark, Sherlock just failed to get on the end of a Millar cross after good work on the wing. The ball came right over and found Swankie who made a lovely turn before crossing the ball back in for Savo but his header ended up in a great save from Cuthbert. Hardie picked up a soft booking next as Morton kept on pressing. A freekick was headed over and then a low ball in was cleared well by Smith, who it has to be said came onto a better game as the half wore on.
There was another stoppage in play in the 64th minute after McManus elbowed Savo in the head although he came off worse as he was caught when he went down and needed to leave the field to get stitches in a head wound, eventually returning sporting a neat line in Rab C Nesbitt headgear - obviously he feels right at home in pseudo-Wegieland. When play resumed Morton again had the better of the ball. One good break 20 minutes from time ended up in an excellent block in the box from the trialist. Two minutes after that, he was adjudged to have fouled a home player. The freekick into the box was headed back across the goal for an unmarked header which brought out a brilliant save from Euan as he tipped the ball over the bar.
We hadn't learned our lesson though and the corner saw another free header go just wide of target. Jackson came on for Swankie as our first change, moving to the right wing as Sheerin went to the left and Chris switched to a more central role, while for Morton the thuggery had taken over as Finlayson took to the field. With ten minutes to go, Davie Weatherston got a run out in place of Savo and just after that a freekick ended up with a decent claim for a penalty as McManus showed his desire to still be a Saints player by trying to climb into Holmes' shirt. We didn't get it and today being the usual football experience we were more than punished a minute later. Morton broke up the park after again easily dealing with a Saints freekick. They won a corner off James and hit it low into box where a low shot was well blocked By Euan. He failed to hold onto the ball and James settled for hoofing it clear of the goal. The ball went out to the left where it was picked up by Masterton who decided to try his luck. The ball didn't seem to be hit that powerfully but it went into the box and almost in slow-motion through the players in the area and into the net thanks to a flukey deflection from PantyLoo - not one of Saints' proudest moments.
Saints immediately went on the attack with Sheerin and Mr Smith combining on the left before sending a cross in that was missed by both Jacko and Davie Weatherston. A foul by Finlayson ended up with another freekick in the 84th minute but when it was half- cleared Weatherston could only shoot over. Hardie set up Jacko next and he turned his man well only to put his shot wide. Peaso replaced Sheerin in a last throw of the dice but to no avail and our final chance saw James head a corner wide.
A draw was probably about a fair result but, given the nature of the goals we lost, its hard not to feel annoyed. Certainly the players didn't make too many mistakes and even the trialist put in a decent shift. MoM for me was probably Rustybitz who rarely put a foot wrong. If we do have a problem its possibly that we tired noticeably in the second half, only returning to our attacking style once the scores were levelled.
Still, at least we've not lost yet!
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