Morton 0 - 0 Dundee United: Jim Duffy pleased with efforts

Mortons Gavin Gunning challenges Uniteds Simon Murray.  Photograph: SNS
Mortons Gavin Gunning challenges Uniteds Simon Murray. Photograph: SNS
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It wasn’t particularly surprising that two teams who are seemingly unbeatable at the moment played out this scrappy stalemate. Although, on a day where league leaders Hibs won emphatically, neither of the two closest challengers to the Ladbrokes Championship crown were fully satisfied with a share of the spoils.

Each side tried hard in a 90 minutes that had plenty of endeavour but little in the way of quality in the final third as clear-cut chances were few and far between.

The silver lining for each side was that it kept the momentum going as they remain second and third in the table. Dundee United stretched their unbeaten run to ten games in all competitions, while Morton haven’t had a visiting side emerge victorious from a trip to Cappielow since Raith Rovers won 1-0 in late March.

“I thought it was a good 0-0, certainly a competitive 0-0,” said Morton boss Jim Duffy. “I would say United had the better of the last 20 minutes, but over the 90 minutes I was pleased. I couldn’t fault the application of the players.”

United were first to test the waters inside the opening two minutes. Charlie Telfer took aim from the edge of the area and saw his curling effort dip just over the crossbar.

The effort added to the promise of an all-out, end-to-end, attacking spectacle between two form sides. United had the prospect of going top if Hibs slipped up, while Morton were looking to cut the gap on their visitors. Instead, supporters from both sides were treated to a first 45 minutes lacking in both quality and tempo.

Morton created three chances that were all of similar nature; occurring at a narrow angle on the left-hand side of the United penalty area. First Gary Oliver had a shot deflected into the side netting. The former Hearts attacker was involved in the action again a short time later as he tried to force home Mark Russell’s cross after the midfielder tip-toed his way along the byline. Then, from almost the same position as Oliver’s effort, Jai Quitongo squeezed a shot beyond the far post after robbing Willo Flood on the edge of the area.

United threatened twice before the half was up. The diminutive Blair Spittal managed to win a header at the back post but failed to direct it towards goal. He was involved again seconds later to find Simon Murray’s diagonal run in behind, but the striker’s first-time shot on the turn lacked the power to beat Derek Gaston.

The tempo increased in the second period, though each side’s frustrations continued in front of goal. Jamie Lindsay did well to turn inside the area but shot right at Cammy Bell. Morton then enjoyed their most dominant spell of the game, forcing a series of corners without ever troubling the goalkeeper.

United were able to ride out the storm and had the best chance of the match when Scott Fraser raced on to a deflected cross six yards out. However, his effort was denied by an excellent stop from Gaston.

Anthony Andreu, United’s leading scorer, had two efforts as the game entered the final quarter, passing wide after being set up by Blair Spittal before poking a 76th minute effort right at Gaston.

The goalkeeper was named as Morton’s man of the match at 
full-time, having sealed the award when he denied Jamie Robson a 87th-minute winner.

The full-back had drifted on to Spittal’s cross at the far post, but couldn’t squeeze his effort beyond Gaston.

“I was pleased for the guys because this is a tough place to come,” said United manager Ray McKinnon. “You can see why Morton are doing as well as they are in the league. We just have to take it on the chin and keep moving forward.”