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Match report

Saturday, 09 August 2008
Saints surrender the lead twice at Cappielow

IRN-BRU Scottish Football League First Division
Morton (2) v Saints (2)
Attendance [2,649]

For the first away league game of the season Derek McInnes was unable to call on the services of suspended Liam Craig or the injured Steven Anderson, Jody Morris or Collin Samuel. However, he did spring a surprise by fielding a natural left back in the shape of a trialist – Aberdeen’s former Sunderland defender Dan Smith. Alan Main was fit enough for a place on the bench.

Morton started with former long-serving Saints goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert between the sticks and another former Saint – Allan McManus - on the bench.
Morton were first to threaten and in the opening 60 seconds they threatened the Saints rearguard with a free kick from just outside the box and Kevin Rutkiewicz did well to head the ball away from danger. However, it was Saints who made the breakthrough when they stunned the home side with the opening goal of the game with just three minutes played.

Chris Millar and Gary Irvine were involved in the build-up, the former Morton man holding the ball up well before supplying the pass which allowed the right-back to loft the ball into the penalty area where Martin Hardie knocked it on and Steven Milne nipped it to provide a typical finish.

It was a great start for Saints and their healthy travelling support but the joy was short-lived because the home side were level within 90 seconds of the re-start. Paul Sheerin slipped up when he attempted to pass the ball back to keeper Euan McLean but he did so without realising that ‘Ton’s Russell was lurking and he duly gained possession before delivering a cross from the left which flew across the face of goal where Ryan McGuffie made no mistake from eight yards.

Undeterred by this set-back Saints set about getting back in front and played some confident passing football. Gavin Swankie saw a 22 yard free kick deflected just wide of Cuthbert’s goal and from the resultant corner kick the former Dundee player lashed the ball over the bar.

As the rain, which had relented prior to kick off, came back on Saints were the better side and the dangerous Swankie saw an effort cleared off the line as Morton struggled to contain a neat moving Saints side for who Derek Holmes was causing the home side problems.

With seven minutes to go before half-time the home side received a blow when Alex Walker came off second best in a challenge for possession with Martin Hardie and although there didn’t appear to be too much in it when the two players collided, the Morton man hit the deck and didn’t move. A stretcher was immediately summoned and although he was conscious, he required close medical assessment on the touchline and while he was absent from the pitch Saints edged ahead.

It was another nice move, with the ball eventually coming in from the right to Hardie at the edge of the box and the big midfielder produced a delightful ball inside the fullback to Gavin Swankie who prodded the ball beyond the grasp of Cuthbert and into the net. Former Saints defender Allan McManus replaced Walker who was not risked after his brush with Hardie.

Saints held the 2-1 advantage at half-time and the second half began with Kevin Cuthbert receiving a deserved warm ovation from the travelling support in recognition of his lengthy devotion to the Saints cause.

The opening quarter of the second half was an end to end affair although neither goalkeeper had a serious save to make. Martin Hardie tried his luck with a long-range effort while Morton got the ball into the six yard box on a couple of occasions but had nobody to provide the finishing touch.

Just on the hour mark Saints carved out a good chance when an over-hit Chris Millar cross was retrieved by Swankie and his great cross was headed goalwards by Milne but Cuthbert clutched the ball high above his head.

The next thing to hit the head of Milne was the head of Allan McManus as the two challenged for a high ball and the new Morton captain had to leave the pitch to receive a head bandage.

The fluency of the Saints play was not on a par with what they had produced in the first half and the home side were sensing this and David Irons’ side were almost given a gift when Kevin Rutkiewicz gave possession away cheaply and Kevin James was required to provide a vital interception to prevent a great scoring opportunity for the Greenock side.

Paul Sheerin was doing his best to get his colleagues to play the game further up the park but it fell on deaf ears and Morton increased the pressure on the Saints rearguard. Euan McLean produced a fine save to tip an effort over the bar and he then clawed away the dangerous in-swinging corner that followed.

Derek McInnes made a couple of changes with Gavin Swankie replaced by Andy Jackson and David Weatherston coming on for Steven Milne as Saints shuffled their pack in a bid get a grip on the game again. However, it was not to prove successful and with eight minutes remaining Morton drew level. It was a sloppy goal to lose with Saints conceding a corner kick and when McLean saved but couldn’t hold an effort on goal, Kevin James cleared the ball only as far as Steven Masterton who sent in a low drive which Eric Paartalu diverted past McLean and into the net.

Saints tried to respond and a Paul Sheerin box into the box had no takers – Peanut’s last involvement before being replaced by Peter MacDonald.

Ultimately, this was a frustrating game for the Saints faithful – they saw their side deservedly lead at half-time but could have little complaint that Morton had levelled the game by the end as their side failed to match the level of performance achieved in the first half.

However, there are worse ways to begin a league season than with a home win and an away draw and in the first half in particular there was much to be positive about.

SAINTS: McLean, Irvine, Trialist, Millar, Rutkiewicz, James, Swankie (Jackson), Hardie, Holmes, Milne (Weatherston), Sheerin (MacDonald).
Subs not used: McCaffrey, Main

MORTON: Cuthbert, Weatherson, Walker (McManus), Greacen, Paartalu , Shimmin, McGuffie (Finlayson), Masterton, Newby, Russell, McAlister Subs: McGeouch, Stewart

Att: 2,649

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