IT IS not that often that taking a point from a home game can be viewed as a mark of progress but, when you haven’t gathered any at all for over two months, then it must be source of some comfort to all connected with Morton.
The scoreless outcome also meant Kenny Shiels steered his side away from a defeat for the first time since his arrival as manager at Cappielow in December, although the gap at the bottom of the Championship table between the Greenock side and fellow strugglers Cowdenbeath still looks ominously wide.
Despite the lack of goals it was a decent contest, with much of the attention inevitably falling on the debut for the home side of Garry O’Connor. Whether the much- travelled and controversial former Scotland internationalist will be the answer to the lack of firepower that has cost Morton dear throughout this campaign or not is too early to tell, of course. He certainly looked in reasonable shape and there were enough nice touches from him to hint that he still has something to offer.
With Shiels now avoiding post-match press conferences on medical advice, it was left to Morton assistant manager David Hopkin to pass verdict on O’Connor’s impact. “I thought he was great for someone who’s been out of the game for about a year and only trained with us for ten days. You can see the technique is still there” he insisted, adding: “I think we dominated the game and on another day could have won by two or three goals”.
Prior to the game getting under way it was something of a surprise not to witness a minute’s silence in memory of Ian Redford, given that he played in Raith’s astounding 1994 League Cup final success against Celtic. The Kirkcaldy side did not wear black armbands either in what seemed something of an unfortunate oversight.
O’Connor’s arrival may be the most high-profile dimension to the overhaul that Shiels is undertaking at Cappielow whilst also trying to pull off an improbable escape from relegation, but his starting line-up yesterday also contained a smattering of other recent signings. The changes have inevitably brought both enthusiasm and uncertainty in their wake and in the opening 45 minutes the Morton goal endured something of a charmed life with the visitors’ Calum Elliot being a particular source of torment.
A couple of low cutbacks from the former Hearts striker should have led to goals but first Dougie Hill missed his kick and, a short while later, Ross Callachan’s tap-in was ruled offside. Elliot himself then brought out an excellent one-handed save from Nicolas Caraux from a powerful header.
For the hosts, David Robertson probably should have done better in the first half than see his shot blocked by the foot of Ross Laidlaw when presented with a clear opening. There was more concerted pressure from Shiels’ men after the break however, and Dougie Imrie was denied by another fine stop from Laidlaw when the ball broke to him at close range.
The Raith defence didn’t look entirely comfortable but an undercurrent of hesitancy borne of lack of belief and killer instinct continued to deny the hosts.
There was always the danger that they would get caught on the break as well, as a couple of testing snapshots from winger Joe Cardle reminded the anxious Cappielow faithful.
By the end, both sides were going at it full pelt in search of a winner, something which in itself represents a minor landmark for Morton and for renewed spirit alone they were worth the point.