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Similar to PMs effort "Bringing Up Baby", this is my effort at rearing my own side, at Morton.

"There'll be no money to spend, Mr Crawford. Ever." The chairman's words were disturbing. I had joined Morton in April, just before they clinched the Second Division title, after their incumbant boss, John "Cowboy" McCormack left unexpectedly for 'personal reasons'. Finance was tight nonetheless, and we had little prospect of survival at First Division level.

After selling off most of the saleable assets I was allowed to invest in four players, who signed pre-contracts. That was to be my lot as after this summer I would never sign another player for Morton. It was a decision I made early on in contract negotiations, and after reviewing our youth facility. The Youth class of 2003 were already in situe, and they, along with a sprinkling of more experienced players, and the class of 2004 would make up the bulk of our squad for the new season.

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Similar to PMs effort "Bringing Up Baby", this is my effort at rearing my own side, at Morton.

"There'll be no money to spend, Mr Crawford. Ever." The chairman's words were disturbing. I had joined Morton in April, just before they clinched the Second Division title, after their incumbant boss, John "Cowboy" McCormack left unexpectedly for 'personal reasons'. Finance was tight nonetheless, and we had little prospect of survival at First Division level.

After selling off most of the saleable assets I was allowed to invest in four players, who signed pre-contracts. That was to be my lot as after this summer I would never sign another player for Morton. It was a decision I made early on in contract negotiations, and after reviewing our youth facility. The Youth class of 2003 were already in situe, and they, along with a sprinkling of more experienced players, and the class of 2004 would make up the bulk of our squad for the new season.

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IB Notes:

Morton youth facilities edited to make sure we get some kids through. Nothing else edited other than that Berwick are now Kirkwall playing in an all-seater dome on Orkney with loads of money. They weren't promoted in their first season, infact they were almost relegated.

I came in in April as I've got the RoI league running and used its start date. My plan is to bring in a few players, primarily kids or guys I can sell in a year's time, this summer, then rely entirely on youths of my own, whether that brings relegation or whatever. Our stadium is as it is in the DB, with now edited future moves or expansion. I edited in a £1m debt to the bank to cover the youth facility. I think that covers it icon_biggrin.gif

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Class of 2003

Graham Dale 19, D LC

Neil Rankin 18, D/M L

John Adam 19, M C

Jim McAllister 18, S C

Dean Keenan 18, M C

Class of 2004

Kevin Buchanan 17, GK

Stephen Lynch 15, D RC

Craig McGowan 17, DM C

Brian Byrne 15, M RC

Scott McGowan 17, M C

John Johnston 16, M R

Andy Hamilton 15, AM C

Mark Wilson 16, F RC

Gary Fraser 15, F RC

Brian Johnstone 15, S C

Paul King 15, F RC

[This message was edited by Peacemaker7 on 15 February 2004 at 13:21.]

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Players Already at the club/earlier youth products


Craig Coyle 23, signed 2001


Derek Collins 35, SW/D RC, youth product 1987, left for Hibs 1998, returned 2001

Stewart Greacen 22, D RLC, signed from Forfar 2003

Chris Millar 21, D/DM RC, youth product 2002, transfer listed

Paul Gaughan 23, D LC, signed from Hamilton, 2002

David McGregor 23, D C, youth product 2001





Players signed


Darren Johnson 18, released by Ayr United

Jamie MacDonald 17, released by Hearts




Ged Brannan 32, DM C, English, released by Wigan

Craig Sives 17, M C, released by Hearts

Dougie Wilson 20, AM R, signed from Stirling Albion, £5,000


þórarinn Brynjar Kristjánsson 23, F C, Icelandic (1 cap), signed from Keflavík, £120,000

Steven MacDonald 20, F C, released by St Mirren

Ryan Gay 17, S C, released by Hearts

Steven Hislop 26, S C, Bosman from Inverness

[This message was edited by Peacemaker7 on 15 February 2004 at 13:38.]

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After a successful pre-season where a Hearts XI came to Cappielow and lost 2-0, and we won 1-0 at Hampden against Queen's Park came the first competitive game at home to East Stirling, who put up little challenge in a 3-0 win, courtesy of a Kristjánsson hat-trick.

The stage was set for the visit of Airdrie United in the first league game of the silent revolution. I opted to go for a back 4, one defensive midfielder, three strung across the park ahead of him and two forwards:

Goalkeeper: Craig Coyle

Right back: Stephen Lynch Class of 04

Left back: Paul Gaughan

Centre back: Derek Collins © Class of 87

Centre back: Stewart Greacen

Defensive midfield: Craig McGowan Class of 04

Right midfield: Brian Byrne Class of 04

Left midfield: Neil Rankin Class of 03

Centre midfield: Andy Hamilton Class of 04

Forward: þórarinn Brynjar Kristjánsson

Forward: Jim McAllister Class of 03

We didn't know what to expect. Airdrie had been promoted in our wake, but we had let most of the title winning squad go, our fans were wary and Airdrie had strengthened in the summer. We needn't have worrie though as fifteen year old Andy Hamilton scored twice in the first four minutes. The game was over when Jim McAllister, who scored four goals in seven games at the tail end of last season before being bizarrely named Second Division Player of the Year due to my selling the leading contenders, made it three after fourteen minutes, and the floodgates opened. McAllister then Kristjánson netted before the interval to make it five, and second half goals from those two, and a penalty from fifteen year old Brian Byrne made the final score eight to none.

Morton 8-0 Airdrie United

Player Ratings

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X of the same XI, Kristjánsson missing out through injury, replaced by 15 year old Brian Johnstone, ground out a from-behind 2-1 win at Gretna in the second round of the Challenge Cup, the two 15 year olds, Byrne and Hamilton, netting in that one. We had little hope of picking up points at St Johnstone when we looked at the fixtures before the season began, but after beating Airdrie so well confidewnce was higher that it otherwise would have been. In the event goals from McAllister and Hamilton made it a comfortable 2-0 win, and expectations were in the rise.

Millar made a £12,000 move to Plymouth as the transfer window drew to a close, but there was bad news also as a fractured jaw looked set to keep McAllister out of the next two games. Fortunately Kristjánsson was fit enough to return, and he came closest in a 0-0 draw at home to Ayr as he hit the bar from a free kick on the hour mark.

The same team that failed to break Ayr down came flying out of the blocks up at Dingwall in our Challenge Cup semi final, and a double from 15 year old Brian Johnstone had us clear and away. Second half goals from Jim Hamilton, and then a wonder strike from Blair Lawrie in injury time though sent the tie to extra time. County then had the momentum going into the extra period, and Conor Gethins gave them the lead after 101 minutes. When the same player made it 4-2 after 107 the comeback was complete, and our Challenge Cup run was over for this season. We weren't invincible after all.

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Dean Keenan hadn't played yet this season, but news that he would require surgery on a hamstring problem and miss four months of action was a major blow. Not in terms of being able to put a team on the field, but because of the tight-knit feeling in the squad, and each player shared in Dean's bad news. Nonetheless I went with the same guys who had failed to beat Ayr or Ross County at Falkirk, and the poor form looked set to continue as Ian MacSween put the Bairns ahead, and it went from bad to worse before half time as we lost Andy Hamilton to injury forcing a slight reshuffle as John Johnston came on to play right wing with Byrne switching inside to cover Hamilton's role. MacSween though sealed the points for the home team after the break, and we were left longing for the return of McAllister, as if that would magically resolve all our flaws. Craig McGowan got his first goal for the club with a 70-yard punted clearance that deceived everyone before dropping into the net, but it was scant consolation for a poor all around performance. Hamilton was not badly injured, and wouldn't even miss training on Monday. Neil Rankin though broke his wrist and would be out for three weeks. It never rains but it pours.

Gary Fraser, a right sided forward no less, stepped in on the left for the League Cup tie at home to SPL side Partick Thistle, but we held up little hope of a revival starting here. Kristjánsson and Hamilton had other ideas though and each had scored before fifteen minutes had elapsed as we took the game to our more glamourous rivals. The second half saw the trend continue as Kristjánsson came close early on, and club captain Derek Collins made it three with fifteen minutes left. It was a lead we never looked like surrendering, and we had made it through to Round Two and a trip to Kilmarnock. The gas masks were on order.

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McAllister returned as we entertained Brechin, and played well in a 2-0 win, with goals coming from Greacen and Dougie Wilson from the bench, and I realised that my season's preparations were lacking, and my so-called SPL victims Partick had been relegated last season and are a fellow First Division club. Jim McAllister roared back to goalscoring form in Dumfries as Queen of the South struggled to deal with his finishing ability. He had us 2-0 up before Kristjansson's 15th minute effort made it 3-0. Within five minutes it was 3-1 though as Queens regrouped. Dougie Wilson was thrown on before the break as Brian Byrne retired hurt, and Coyle was forced into a great save moments later as the Doonhamers knocked on the door once again. In the second half Queens kept going, and with 23 minutes to go they made it 3-2. Coyle kept us ahead seconds later with a fine save, but from the resulting corner Queens drew level. Just as it looked like we were going to lose to a big comeback again Kristjánsson picked up on a clearance and beat the keeper from 20 yards, restoring our lead, and not long after that Derek Collins headed home a free kick for 5-3. Almost immediately the home side got one back, but Wilson netted a sixth Morton goal to ease the nerves. Not that that was an end to it as both sides went close in the remaining time, but when the dust settled it had ended Queen of the South four, Morton six.

And so there was a little trepidation heading to Killie as to the state of our defence. Yes, we'd held firm in the end and won the game, but four goals lost is never something to crow about. For half an hour at Rugby Park, Killie peppered our goal with shots, but we fought our way into the game, and the returning Neil Rankin on the left was impressive as Kristjánsson and Byrne went close from his deliveries before Hamilton forced Dubourdeau into a good save just before half time. Our hopes collapsed though on 69 minutes as Gary McDonald fired Killie ahead, and though we kept on huffing and puffing, we were beaten. Or so I thought - ye of little faith! Andy Hamilton headed an 83rd minute leveller from a Byrne cross and we were alive once more. We'd suffered one extra time heartbreaker this season up at Dingwall, but this time we had the momentum, and Kristjánsson came close a couple of times in the first extra period. In the second though Killie looked to take control, and James Fowler came close from a narrow angle. With time expiring the home side had one last chance, but they couldn't take it, and the game went to kicks from the penalty mark. Quite simply the pressure was all on Killie, in front of their baying support, such as it was, they were playing a team of almost entirely teenagers who had nothing to lose. McGuiness netted their first, and McAllister did likewise for us. James Fowler was next up, but Craig Coyle repelled his effort and we were firmly in the driving seat as Dougie Wilson, a late sub, stepped up. He scored, and Scott Johnstone for Killie struck the post, meaning that Kristjánsson had the chance to put the result almost beyond doubt. His effort crept past the keeper and we led 3-1 after three kicks a side. Kris Boyd had to score for Killie, and his powerful effort went straight down the middle, beating Coyle. Rankin though could win it for us, but a despairing dive from Dubourdeau was just enough, and Killie were alive. Not for much longer! As Paul McGlinchey's effort squeezed wide of the post he sunk to his knees and the Morton party began. This time we did have an SPL scalp, and we had set up a Third Round date with Hibs at Cappielow.

Jim McAllister completed his comeback from injury by picking up the Bell's First Division Player of the Month Award for September, whilst Andy Hamilton picked up the Young Player award. Ayr's Campbell Money was manager of the month having led the Honest Men to first place in the division. The season was picking up pace already.

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The comedown was evident immediately as we failed to break down Partick Thistle at Cappielow in a 0-0 draw. It seems Brian Byrne is not really ready for football at this level, or at least needs a rest, so Dougie Wilson will step in for the next few games at least. That decision was repaid after half an hour at Dingwall as we gained revenge on County for our Challenge Cup exit, Wilson stroking home what at that stage was our third goal after Hamilton and an own goal opened a gap. Kristjánsson made it four in the second half before one back for the home side made the final score 4-1. Vengeance was ours.

We lost Rankin to injury early in the 1-1 draw at Raith, and needed an equaliser from McAllister to avoid a bad defeat. Relegation now is not even in our thoughts, we're looking to survive comfortably, and challenge at the top as long as our young legs will carry us.

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Airdrie were out for revenge after our 8-0 win at Cappielow on the opening day, but we scored twice in first half stoppage time to go 3-0 ahead, and the scoreless second half finished them. We were in fine fettle going in to the CIS Cup game with Hibs, who disrespected us somewhat by fielding a weakened team, and boy did we ever take them to task.

Jim McAllister's 24th minute strike saw us ahead at the interval, but within ten minutes of the restart it was 4-0 as a Kristjánsson double and a goal from Hamilton made it clear that we were going to the Quarter Finals. A McAllister penalty made it a rout, and Greacen headed home a sixth to wrap it up with 26 minutes still to play. Hibs were shellshocked, and we were through to face Raith at Stark's in the next round.

There followed a disappointing run as we lost at home to St Johnstone and Falkirk, and away at Ayr and Brechin, after losing Kristjánsson somwhere in the middle there, and with Greacen moving to Wigan in a £150,000 deal. Still we snapped out of it with a 4-1 win at home to Queen of the South, Brian Johnstone netting a hat-trick, and Jim McAllister with the other. We were not in the best of form, but we felt we could take Raith in the cup.

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The Raith cup game, and subsequent league rematch at Cappielow were both marked by late, late goals for our opponents to foil our evil plans. In the cup game we led through McAllister for most of the game, but lost a last minute goal to go out 2-1, and after reversing a 1-0 defecit in the league to lead 2-1 we gave up 2 points with a sloppy concession late on.

Draws at Partick then at home to Ross County preceded yet another win over Airdrie, but another mini-slump saw us lose to St Johnstone at McDiarmid in the league 1-0, at home to Hibs in the Scottish Cup Third Round 2-1, a shocking turnaround from our last encounter provided by Hibs' top players, a 2-0 loss at home to Ayr and another 2-0 reverse at Falkirk.

It was the same run of fixtures that tripped us up in the previous quarter, and now promotion was well and truly out of the question. Consecutive wins of 2-0 at Queen of the South and 4-2 at Raith lifted us back to fourth place, but 23 points seperate champions-elect Ayr United and ourselves, with only 15 points of a cushion between ourselves and the drop zone. We certainly need the recent upturn to remain in effect for the final 12 games, and not slip into another, potentially terminal slip.

In the transfer window we lost more than just Greacen. Dougie Wilson was snapped up by Irish side Bohemians in a £55,000 deal - a tenfold increase on the price paid six months ago - and Kristjánsson made a £1,000,000 move to Premiership side Fulham. We lost two other starters at the same time as Craig Coyle made a £100,000 switch to Brighton, whilst the same fee took Jim McAllister to Northwich Victoria in the English Third Division. The moves left us bereft of senior pros with experience, and with players like Brannan and Hislop injured long-term, it was to youth we turned, and players like keeper Kevin Buchanan and striker Brian Johnstone have stepped into the breach. It could be a rough ride to the end of the season, but our earlier form should be sufficient to see us safe in this league.

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We continued to pick up points over the following weeks with a 1-1 draw at home to Brechin and a home win, 1-0, over Partick as the least experienced side in the league kept doing us all proud. A 2-2 draw in Dingwall was well earned, but Airdrie exacted a little revenge for the beatings we had laid on them all season long with a 5-0 win at New Broomfield.

We bounced back with a sensational 2-1 win at home to St Johnstone, but were never in with a shout as Ayr United clinched the title with a from-behind 5-1 win over us at Somerset. A gritty performance at Cappielow the following week saw us draw with Falkirk, a result that confirmed we would be playing First Division football next season, even though five games remain to be played.

Stephen Lynch is by far and away the best of the class of 2004 this season. Still a month away from his sixteenth birthday he has played all season at right back, 39 games to date, and has rated at 7.05 on average over that period. Interest is being shown by Sunderland, Leeds and Norwich, and should any of them make a move there would be little the club could do to hang on to Stephen. Another who has made a big impression is Gary Fraser who has played all 13 games away from his natural position up front, earning reasonable ratings and interest from Dundee and Premiership side Fulham. He too is just fifteen, and again we would be powerless to prevent his departure should he receive a tempting offer to go.

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With survival assured the pressure was off, and despite this we fought tooth and nail in an eventual 1-0 loss at Brechin, which left me pretty proud. We got off to a rough start at Partick, losing a goal after a matter of 20 seconds, but again we dug in, and steadied the ship through to half time. Gary Fraser popped up with an equaliser twenty minutes from the end and it was another pleasing point.

We maintained the Indian Sign over Queen of the South with a 1-0 home win, but Kev Buchanan picked up a groin strain and his season was over. Gary Fraser was rewarded for a good month's work with the Young Player of the Month. Brian Johnstone's double let us pick up another three points at home to Raith in the season's penultimate game, and we closed out a very encouraging year with another unexpected win, this time at home to Ross County, 1-0 through Johnstone's 17th of the season. Now 16, Brian is looking to be a real prospect if we can just hang on to him. His good season was recognised with a starting berth in the Team of the Year, a prize also afforded to Andy Hamilton and Craig McGowan. Doubtless McAllister and Kristjánsson would have been in contention had they stayed in the league. Johnstone was also placed third in the Player of the Year awards and picked up the goal of the season award for his strike against St Johnstone in March.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

1st C Ayr 36 26 6 4 96 21 +75 84

2nd Raith Rovers 36 20 6 10 74 54 +20 66

3rd Falkirk 36 17 8 11 60 50 +10 59

4th Brechin 36 16 8 12 68 62 +6 56

</pre><pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">5th Morton 36 15 10 11 57 47 +10 55 </pre><pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

6th St. Johnstone 36 13 8 15 47 58 -11 47

7th Ross County 36 13 7 16 55 62 -7 46

8th Airdrie Utd 36 10 4 22 57 85 -28 34

9th R Queen of Sth. 36 7 8 21 44 88 -44 29

10th R Partick Thistle 36 7 7 22 38 69 -31 28


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We're going through Changes...

Class of 2003

Graham Dale was sold to Threave Rovers for £1000 at the end of the season.

2004-05 record: Played: 16(1), Goals: 0, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.53

Neil Rankin was released at the end of the season after an suspension- and injury-plagued campaign.

2004-05 record: Played: 32, Goals: 0, Assists: 5, Ave: 6.50

John Adam has been released after failing to make an impact last season.

2004-05 record: Played: 5(1), Goals: 0, Assists: 0, Ave: 6.33

Jim McAllister, as you know, had a phenomenal start to the season and was sold to Northwich Victoria in the transfer window where he scored three goals in nine games.

2004-05 record: Played: 22, Goals: 15, Assists: 6, Ave: 7.91

Dean Keenan had a disappointing season badly disrupted my injury, and was released in the close season.

2004-05 record: Played: 0, Goals: 0, Assists: 0, Ave: -

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Misellaneous players


Craig Coyle sold to Brighton

Darren Johnson released

Jamie MacDonald released


Derek Collins Still at club

Stewart Greacen sold to Wigan

Chris Millar sold to Plymouth

Paul Gaughan released

David McGregor released


Ged Brannan released

Craig Sives released

Dougie Wilson sold to Bohemians


þórarinn Brynjar Kristjánsson sold to Fulham

Steven MacDonald released

Ryan Gay released

Steven Hislop released

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Class of 2004

Kevin Buchanan is the number 1 keeper for now, but seems somewhat injury prone. Will immediately be pressured by two very talented prospects from the class of 05.

2004-05 record: Played:15, Conceded: 22, Clean Sheets: 3, MoM: 1, Ave: 6.33

Stephen Lynch is a talented guy, but the lack of any left-sided defenders in the squad sees us slotting him in there and trying to retrain him to the position. Fingers crossed.

2004-05 record: Played: 44, Goals: 0, Assists: 5, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.11

Craig McGowan was superb last season and continues in the team this time around. Attracting interest from Northampton.

2004-05 record: Played: 44, Goals: 2, Assists: 7, MoM 0, Ave: 7.20

Brian Byrne started in the team last season, but dropped out, only to be asked to deputise variously at right back and centre midfield after we lost players in January.

2004-05 record: Played: 17(1), Goals: 2, Assists: 5, MoM: 1, Ave: 7.06

Scott McGowan didn't play last season, and will hope to make an impression this.

2004-05 record: Did Not Play

John Johnston came in for Byrne on the right last term and did not too badly for the team.

2004-05 record: Played: 17(2), Goals: 1, Assists: 2, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.32

Andy Hamilton was a sensation for such a young lad, particularly in the fantastic run we had early in the season. Goals galore, and now an established player.

2004-05 record: Played: 44, Goals: 10, Assists: 10, MoM: 1, Ave: 7.25

Mark Wilson played a dozen or so games and acquited himself fairly well, though is clearly not our best forward.

2004-05 record: Played: 14, Goals: 4, Assists: 4, MoM: 1, Ave: 6.36

Gary Fraser also had a few games in the team and has brought himself to the attention of scouts from bigger teams. Has a chance to make it in this game.

2004-05 record: Played: 16(2), Goals: 3, Assists: 1, MoM: 3, Ave: 7.17

Brian Johnstone had a superb second half to last season, earning a place in the Team of the Year, 3rd place in the Divisional Player of the Year award, winner of the division's Goal of the Season prize and Morton fans' Player of the Year, and he was only 15 for most of the campaign! Well on his way to being a local hero.

Record in 2004-05: Played: 28(2), Goals: 17, Assists: 3, MoM: 6, Ave: 7.67

Paul King only got one game last season, but played well and set up a goal. Has the potential to be a decent player.

Record in 2004-05: Played: 1, Goals: 0, Assists: 1, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.00

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Class of 2005

David Mitchell 16, GK

David Ward 14, GK

Paul Craig 15, GK

Craig Robertson 17, GK

Steven Ritchie 16, SW/D C

Mark Nicol 16, D/DM R

Michael Kerr 15, D C

Anthony Reid 15, D/DM C

Steven Reilly 16, D C

Gareth Jones 17, M RLC

Scott Campbell 15, M C

David Fraser 17, F LC

Mark Russell 14, F LC

David Davidson 17, F C

All players save Mitchell and Ward are in the first team pool

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After a couple of competitive friendlies we started our competitive action began at Arbroath in the Challenge Cup. The Third Division side were feisty, and with three members of the class of 05 starting, and another coming on when Kevin Buchanan was injured after 19 minutes, we were a little lightweight. Our hosts took full advantage with a 2-0 win, and a 3-0 defeat at Falkirk in our first League game had us worried.

Nothing like a match with Airdrie to raise spirits though, and a 2-1 win at New Broomfield was sweet, goals from Paul King and John Johnston the difference. We followed that up with a 1-1 draw at home to Clyde, John Johnston again on target for us, and we were bang in the middle of an already-stretched division.

Our starting XI is pretty much set now, and it begins with Kevin Buchanan (class of 2004) in goals. Both Paul Craig and Craig Robertson came out of the youths this season and look like real prospects, but the experience Buchanan gained last season gives him the edge.

Mark Nicol gets the nod at right back and is the first of the class of 2005 to make it into the line-up. He has real potential, and his agility and balance are comparable with any player in world football. Last year this berth was taken by Stephen Lynch who had a fantastic year, but I've been forced to shunt him to left back due to a lack of alternatives. He's working with the coaching staff to improve his play there, and should have another good year if we can hang on to him.

In the middle we find club captain Derek Collins. Now 36, Derek is the only member of the playing staff at Cappielow who isn't a member of either the class of 2004 or the class of 2005. Alongside him is the second member of the newest batch to start, Steven Ritchie. Steven beats out Steven Reilly, Michael Kerr and Anthony Reid for the position alongside Collins.

Out wide right is John Johnston (2004) who was pretty respectable over the second half of last season under tough circumstances and has two goals already this season, and he is opposite left sided midfielder Gareth Jones (2005), who is preferred to more offensive left sided players Mark Russell and David Fraser. In the heart of midfield we go with the combo that ran the show last season, both from the class of 2004, Craig McGowan and Andy Hamilton. No more needs to be said about them.

Up front are another two of last year's crop of kids, Brian Johnstone and Paul King. New boy David Davidson looks like a real lively prospect, and Gary Fraser is another player with ability, but those two have the edge at this point.

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Brian Johnstone's first half goal at Cappielow saw us pick up three points aganist Inverness, but another cup loss to lower league opposition saw us crash out of the CIS Cup at East Fife. A thriller at Dingwall followed as we led 1-0 through Johnstone seconds into the game, but found ourselves 2-1 down at the break as Conor Gethins helped himself to a double. Johnstone levelled after the break, but within 6 minutes County had restored their lead and it took a last minute goal from Paul King to earn us a point we just about deserved.

Wins over Raith (2-1, Johnstone double) and St Johnstone (1-0, King) at Cappielow lifted us to second in the league, behind Brechin only on goal difference, but as with last season it will be vital to gather as many points as possible before the inevitable slumps and bad runs which are unavoidable with such a young pool of talent. With Buchanan and Robertson both sidelined with shoulder injuries, 15 year old Paul Craig has taken on the #1 jersey for the St Johnstone game, and his performance was acceptable, though he was never really threatened. The upcoming game against Albion Rovers will be another test, and the Wee Rovers are no worse a team than East Fife or Arbroath who both handed us beatings.

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You wouldn't have ever picked Morton v Albion Rovers as a game to get worked up over, but on the day it proved to be the most dramatic match of our season to date. After losing a goal on the counter-attack we were headed for defeat. We had lost Paul King to injury after half an hour, and though his replacement, David Davidson - making his debut, had played well, we were having a tough time making the breakthrough. That was until Gareth Jones stepped up and delivered a cross that Davidson powered home with his head from 7 yards out. Four minutes remained, and we looked to have snatched a point until, with the last touch of the ball, another Jones cross was headed goalwards by Brian Johnstone. The Rovers goalie scrambled across, but couldn't get there and we had snatched three points in the most exciting manner possible.

There was some comedown the following week as we travelled to face leaders Brechin. Johnstone had us ahead, but we were second-best, and a penalty in each half saw us go down to a 2-1 defeat. Certainly there is misfortune in giving up two penalty kicks in a single match, but we could have no complaints about the outcome. The worse news was a groin injury to Brian Johnstone that would require surgery - our doctors estimated an absence of three months, bringing him back just as the transfer window closes. Time will tell.

Airdrie were handed their usual beating at Cappielow, Davidson starting in Johnstone's place scored the first, and a Steven Ritchie free kick from halfway soared into the net untouched as Airdrie keeper Gary McGuire waved to his family in the Cappielow stand, to give us a 2-0 victory. After the game some of us visited Brian Johnstone at home, still sore after his surgery, to present him with the Bell's Young Player of the Month trophy, and well deserved it was too.

A week after losing the Challenge Cup final Clyde played host to our merry band of buccaneering youngsters, keen to stop the hurt, and looked the more dangerous side with Melaschenko and Gilhaney going close before Tod missed a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring. From the goal kick we broke down the left, and John Johnston fed Paul King who slotted home a somewhat undeserved opener just before half time. An injury to Mark Nicol saw Michael Kerr come in for his debut after the break, but he was under little pressure as Davidson made it 2-0 fifteen minutes later. Melaschenko and Gilhaney combined late on, and the latter made it 2-1, but we were confident of closing out the game, and so it proved. We're still riding high in second place, and the pre-season target of 40 points draws ever closer.

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13. <---unlucky for some

Boy do we know how to slump! Defeats at home to Falkirk and Ross County by 1-0 and at Inverness in between by 3-0 were devastating, and though we rallied at Raith from 0-3 to only lose 4-2 we were further stuffed by news that David Davidson had badly torn his groin and would miss six months of action - meaning he'd be lucky to see any further playing time this season. With Johnstone missing and a game against the league leaders imminent, and a four-game loss streak in progress things looked pretty bad.

Paul King returned to partner Gary Fraser for the visit of Brechin, champions-elect even at this stage of the season, but the week was tainted as Derek Collins announced that this would be his last season as a professional footballer. Next season the kids would be home alone. On the park we were resiliant, holding Brechin at bay for the entire first half, but four minutes into the second half Stephen Lynch was caught out by a ball over the top, and Birchall netted for the visitors. Missed tackles were causing us to give up chances, and with ten minutes to go a series of calamities allowed Dene Shields to wrap the game up at 2-0. We never looked like netting so much as a consolation, and although the defeat didn't cost us our fourth place, bunching meant we were just three points out of eighth spot. A worrying prospect indeed.

An audacious bid from Luton to take Lynch on loan in the wake of that defeat was rebuffed, particularly since my coaches report that he is now fully capable of playing left back. Although he hasn't been as good as last season, he has adapted adequately, and can now be considered our left back for the future. Credit to our coaches too for giving him the confidence to become competent in the role. Darlington made a similar loan enquiry about Craig McGowan, and received a similar response - he too is a vital cog in the Morton machine. The draw for the Third Round of the Scottish Cup saw us drawn away to Dunfermline - pretty much the worst possible tie - no glamour, no money, no chance of winning.

Kevin Buchanan picked up yet another injury in training before the trip to Albion Rovers, so Craig Robertson took over the gloves for a game we felt gave us the best possible chance to break our slump before mid-season. One minutes and thirty-five seconds in and our hopes were raised still further as Paul King nodded home a corner, but it took just six minutes for the home side to level, Paul McManus' shot going straight through Robertson. More faffing about in defence allowed Iain Diack to make it 2-1 for the home team after 11 minutes, and we were staring a sixth consecutive defeat in the face. A decidedly offside looking Diack drew a sensational stop from Robertson later in the half, but we made it to half time facing just a one goal defecit. Brian Byrne replaced John Johnston in the second period, but he was not involved as King broke wide left from a Robertson punt, and crossed for Gareth Jones, who had gone inside to take up King's usual position, to head home. It was completely out of the blue, but not at all unwelcome. Robertson's handling looked surer now, perhaps buoyed by his partial assist on the equaliser, and Rovers were finding little joy from long range, but our bandwagon was derailed with 20 minutes to go as Paul King picked up a knock. Young Mark Russell came on for his debut up front, and he played a key role in the build up to Gary Fraser's goal two minutes later, which handed us an unlikely lead. We couldn't hold the lead though, and with seven minutes to go we gave away possession cheaply in a dangerous are, and substitute Kristopher Myles fired home from 20 yards to tie the game at three. Rovers now went looking for the winner, but in injury time an attack broke down, and we broke forward swiftly. One good ball into the middle later and Gary Fraser was applying the finishing touch to a sweeping move that brough us three very, very precious points, and marked our second last-minute comeback winner over Rovers this season.

Mark Russell set a record as the youngest-ever Morton player in the victory, and he was handed a start a week later as injury sidelined King for the trip to Perth to face St Johnstone. He looked industrious in a goalless first half and eight minutes into the second half showed he was a real goal threat, turning home a Gary Fraser pass from 3 yards out. Fraser himself scored thirteen minutes later, and Saints were rocking. Fraser and Russell were causing the pedestrian Dods and Niedermeier no end of trouble, and Fraser grabbed his second of the game with a lovely wee run and accurate finish. At three-nothing the game was all but over. All but. Two Mark Davidson goals made it 3-2 with fifteen minutes to play, and it was game on once again. Some good possession football though saw us eat up the clock, and we gathered all three points to ease nine points clear of Saints, and take a huge step towards survival.

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Mid-season table:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

1st Brechin 18 13 3 2 40 15 +25 42

2nd Raith Rovers 18 8 6 4 36 28 +8 30

3rd Falkirk 18 9 3 6 30 26 +4 30

</pre><pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">4th Morton 18 9 2 7 26 29 -3 29 </pre><pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

5th Ross County 18 8 4 6 41 29 +12 28

6th Clyde 18 6 2 10 22 29 -7 20

7th Inverness C. Thistle 18 6 2 10 29 38 -9 20

8th St. Johnstone 18 6 2 10 21 30 -9 20

9th Airdrie Utd 18 5 4 9 38 45 -7 19

10th Albion Rovers 18 5 2 11 36 50 -14 17


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We knew Airdrie would be no pushovers this time. OK, so we almost always beat them, but they were on a nice run of form, we weren't, the game was at their place, and they really, really wanted to beat us. In the end they did, 1-0 with a long-range effort that Robertson barely flapped at. The opening of the transfer window meant two things: 1. Johnstone would be back soon - he had already started light training; and 2. Scottish Cup weekend. Paul King was back and took Russell's place for the trip to Dunfermline.

The game started really, really, really well. Fraser made it 1-0 after 2 minutes, and King added a second after 8. We were doing to Dunfermline what East Fife and Arbroath had done to us in the other cups. Former Morton star John Maisano was starting for the Pars and he went close before John Johnston unbelievably made it 3-0 in 22 minutes and had a fourth ruled out for offside. Dunfermline simply weren't at the races at this stage, though they did have one effort off the post at the tail end of the first half. In the second period we set out primarily to defend what we had, and Buchanan was forced to look lively in making a couple of sharp saves early on. The home team continuted to make all the running, but our defence was reasonably solid, restricting the likes of Barry Nicholson to long range efforts which Buchanan handled adequately. Derek Young broke through to pull one back in injury time, but the tie was over, and we were through, leaving me delighted to admit my prediction had been wrong. Another crappy draw followed though as we were handed an away tie at Dundee.

We were buoyed up for the visit of Clyde, and a goal from Craig McGowan after 16 minutes got us off and running nicely. Clyde though weren't giving this one up, and Gilhaney levelled within three minutes. John Johnston's fifth of the season restored our lead after 32 though, and we looked to take a stranglehold on the game, knowing defeat would draw us back towards the pack at the bottom. Melaschenko's goal 4 minutes into the second half was a bit of a sickener, but we were handed a chance to erase it with a penalty. Gary Fraser slammed it home, and an amazing game moved to 3-2. A blunder by Simon Mensing almost led to a fourth goal, but the offside flag came to Clyde's rescue. Mensing atoned with a maddy run before setting up Melaschenko to level, and we were back to square one. This time though it was the visiting team who grabbed the initiative, Keith Gibson heading home a corner for 4-3, but Paul King tied it up once again, nodding home a free kick with three minutes to go. Both keepers were delighted to hear the final whistle sound on a 4-4 draw, and both managers breathed a sigh of relief.

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Two first half goals at Falkirk - another McGowan thunderbolt and Jones on the end of a corner - set us up nicely for three important points, but Ian MacSween hates us and scored with twenty minutes to go to hand his side a lifeline. Davide Xausa should have levelled soon after, but Buchanan denied him, and at full time the points were ours.

The long awaited return of Brian Johnstone arrived as he was named on the bench for the visit of Inverness, and he replaced Paul King at half time with the score at 0-0. With 25 minutes to go he had a great effort turned on to the post by Bryn Halliwell in the Caley Thistle goal, but played no part in the opener - an Andy Hamilton free kick that took a wickedly unfair deflection off the wall before creeping in with Halliwell stranded. The keeper was playing well though, and he denied Johnstone a comeback goal again, but when Gary Fraser was put through one-on-one he was left with no chance. At 2-0 the game was over and we were content to sit on it. So, no goal for Johnstone, but a good 45 minutes, and he has a chance to start next week.

Three wins from five in January leaves me as manager of the month, and that curse was bourne out as we lost an early goal at Ross County, our defence going to sleep on a corner, turned in by Rooney. Johnstone was again settling for a place on the bench, but another week had done wonders for his fitness and he replaced Fraser at half time determined to erase the one goal defecit. Mark Crilly had other ideas. The former Ayr and St Mirren midfielder made it 2-0 early in the second half, and a quick third from Gethins ended the match as a contest. Andy Hamilton spanked a consolation with 25 minutes to go, but we harboured no real hopes of a comeback. Brian Johnstone though had promised me a goal, and he delivered five minutes later, halving the defecit. Losing Mark Nicol to a knock stifled a little momentum, but Johnstone had a glorious chance to level with five minutes left as he found himself eyeball to eyeball with the County keeper. The shot was saved though, and the home side kept the points. Johnstone's second half efforts were, however, worth a bottle of champagne from the match sponsors, sadly for him he's below the legal age, so I took it.

There was bad news when we returned to the dressing room though - Mark Nicol had suffered a spinal injury, and not only was his career at threat, so was his ability to ever walk again. He was scheduled for surgery on Sunday afternoon, and the players were all hit hard. The best case scenario sees him back for next season, the worst, well it doesn't bear thinking about.

Suspensions to John Johnston and Gary Fraser saw Brian Byrne, Michael Kerr and Johnstone brought into the starting lineup for the cup game at Dundee. If we had no chance at Dunfermline we had less here, and Fabien Caballero made it 1-0 after five minutes. Andy Hamilton was carried off ten minutes later and I wanted to just go home now. Brian Byrne too was lost in the first half as the casualty toll built, but the score remained 1-0 at the break. Steven Milne made sure of Dundee's progress after the break, but we clawed back some pride with a Paul King free kick. Lee Mair made it 3-1 and so it ended. We were out, beaten, but not disgraced. We could hold our heads up high, and take the cheque from the SFA for £75,000 happily. Were it not for the horrific fact that Brian Byrne had suffered a near-identical injury to Mark Nicol. Once again there was the trauma of potential paralysis, though this was ruled out quickly, but another player had a long road ahead of him if he were ever to play football again.

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A goal from Gary Fraser and an own goal from self-destructing 9-man Raith, who also missed a penalty, gave us a 2-0 win at Cappielow, and we scored yet another win over Albion Rovers with a late goal, Fraser adding to Lynch's opener for a 2-1 scoreline on a breezy Greenock afternoon.

Brechin have been the class side in the division this season, and their 3-0 win at Glebe Park was no more than we deserved, and despite that Brian Johnstone marked his comeback by being named player of the month, with Gary Fraser the Young Player of the Month in a month where he also nabbed the Goal of the Month prize.

An Anthony Reid own goal saw us defeated at St Johnstone, but with a thirteen point gap down to Inverness in ninth, and forty-two points in the back, relegation is barely on our minds any more. A disasterous first 7 minutes at home to Airdrie almost changed that though as we lost a goal and then had John Johnston sent off, but a matching red card for Jerome Vareille gave us a lifeline and Craig McGowan took advantage by slamming home an equaliser. 10-a-sides is a much more open game, and a superb strike from Brian Johnstone kicked off the second half in style, and though the goal-fest I anticipated didn't actually occur, Johnstone made it 3-1 after a late counter attack, and we could forget about relegation altogether. For this season.

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Two goals in three minutes saw us draw 1-1 at Clyde as we looked to press on for a top half finish, and a dour game at home to Falkirk came to life in the 78th minute with a Johnstone goal, immediately cancellec out by MacSween only for Gareth Jones to notch a late winner. Ross County scored early, but we weren't any weaker now than at any other stage in the season and we routed them 3-1 at Cappielow before winning 2-1 at Raith, the sixth consecutive game with only one goal conceded, goals in 24 and 26 from Johnstone and Gary Fraser sufficient on this occassion.

Four first half goals saw us take a bit of a doing in Inverness, but Paul King's strike meant we had finally won a game against champions Brechin, just seven days after they clinched the title. We ended the season with two away draws - at St Johnstone (1-1) and Albion Rovers (2-2), the latter having long since been relegated with Airdrie United.

Ayr were relegated from the SPL in their first season up with just 19 points and only 4 wins, and an embarrassing 0-1-2 record against Kilmarnock, including a 5-0 humping. Partick and Queen of the South bounced up from the Second Division.

In the awards category Brian Johnstone was Player of the Year, and he was selected alongside Andy Hamilton in the divisional Team of the Year. Craig McGowan grabbed third place in the goal of the season contest. We had finished third also, and could take great credit from that. When all was said and done, though, staying in the league was again the target for next season.

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<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Pos Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

1st C Brechin 36 21 7 8 72 41 +31 70

2nd Raith Rovers 36 17 12 7 70 47 +23 63

</pre><pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">3rd Morton 36 18 6 12 57 55 +2 60 </pre><pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

4th Falkirk 36 15 9 12 59 54 +5 54

5th Ross County 36 15 7 14 75 62 +13 52

6th Clyde 36 14 6 16 58 61 -3 48

7th St. Johnstone 36 14 6 16 50 56 -6 48

8th Inverness C. Thistle 36 11 7 18 52 66 -14 40

9th R Airdrie Utd 36 9 9 18 64 83 -19 36

10th R Albion Rovers 36 9 5 22 66 98 -32 32


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Every Day, a Little Older

Class of 2004

Kevin Buchanan had an interrupted season, but was undoubtedly the first pick when fit. With interest being shown in Craig and Robertson he could find it easier to hang on to the gloves this season.

2005-06 record: Played:33, Conceded: 50, Clean Sheets: 6, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.09

Stephen Lynch finally turned 17 and we got him signed to a pro contract. Has converted to left-back and is doing well there for us.

2005-06 record: Played: 40, Goals: 1, Assists: 5, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.88

Craig McGowan sparkled a little less this season, and was less creative, but still belted a couple of nice, nice goals from outside the area.

2005-06 record: Played: 38, Goals: 3, Assists: 1, MoM 0, Ave: 6.82

Brian Byrne is trying to come back from a potentially career-threatening injury, but the response of Mark Nicol to a similar injury will have raised his spirits, unlikely to be ready for the start of next season.

2005-06 record: Played: 4(7), Goals: 0, Assists: 1, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.18

Scott McGowan barely registered on the radar again this season, and could fins himself out of the club sooner rather than later.

2005-06 record: Played: 2(1), Goals: 0, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.67

John Johnston had a really decent campaign on the right, scoring five goals and creating four more. Did have suspension problems at time and may need to work on his temprament.

2005-06 record: Played: 30, Goals: 5, Assists: 4, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.37

Andy Hamilton followed up a great rookie season with a campaign that was in many ways more impressive than his first

2005-06 record: Played: 40, Goals: 4, Assists: 10, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.10

Mark Wilson came off the bench once this year, but wasn't really noticed.

2005-06 record: Played: 0(1), Goals: 0, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.00

Gary Fraser made a big breakthrough this year, and displaced Paul King. One of the few players to not only maintain last season's form, but improve on it.

2005-06 record: Played: 24(3), Goals: 11, Assists: 5, MoM: 4, Ave: 7.37

Brian Johnstone has arrived! Another seventeen goals, in three games fewer than last term, ridiculously consistant, and, despite missing some time with injuries, the runaway winner of the divisional Player of the Year award.

2005-06 record: Played: 25(2), Goals: 17, Assists: 4, MoM: 13, Ave: 8.11

Paul King deputised well in Johnstone's absence, and can be justly proud of a good year. Only knock is that he ended the season as number three striker behind Fraser and Johnstone.

2005-06 record: Played: 29(1), Goals: 9, Assists: 12, MoM: 6, Ave: 7.40

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Class of 2005

David Mitchell spent the season in the reserves

Record in 2005-06: Played: 0, Conceded: 0, Clean Sheets: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: -

David Ward similarly was never called upon.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 0, Conceded: 0, Clean Sheets: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: -

Paul Craig played one or two games in relief of Robertson and Buchanan. Number three for now, but I have a sneaking suspicion he has the most potential of them all

Record in 2005-06: Played: 2(1), Conceded: 4, Clean Sheets: 1, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.00

Craig Robertson was a clear #2 last season, and looks like a potential starter in this league.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 5(1), Conceded: 9, Clean Sheets: 1, MoM: 0, Ave: 5.50

Steven Ritchie established himself as a starter this season, and did particularly well.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 37, Goals: 1, Assists: 0, MoM: 1, Ave: 6.86

Mark Nicol suffered an horrendous injury which he has done well to rehab from in time for the new season.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 26, Goals: 1, Assists: 2, MoM: 0, Ave: 6.65

Michael Kerr was another who took one for the team, missing months after surgery just as he was coming into the team.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 6(2), Goals: 0, Assists: 1, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.00

Anthony Reid spent some time injured also, but played about a dozen games and looked adequate.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 11(2), Goals: 0, Assists: 1, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.00

Steven Reilly only played once, nobody noticed him.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 1, Goals: 0, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: 5.00

Gareth Jones played all season, and was one of the most influential guys this year.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 40, Goals: 4, Assists: 11, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.10

Scott Campbell hasn't made the breakthrough, and we're trying to see if he can cut it at fullback.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 0, Goals: 0, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: -

David Fraser didn't break through this season.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 0(1), Goals: 0, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.00

Mark Russell became our youngest ever player, and scored a goal when others were unavailable. Can be proud of his efforts.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 2(2), Goals: 1, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.25

David Davidson got hurt, but looked OK when fit.

Record in 2005-06: Played: 6(1), Goals: 3, Assists: 0, MoM: 0, Ave: 7.00

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Flying the Nest

Morton fans were dealt a devastating blow last night as the first of their Academy kids left for pastures new. For right wing-back Mark Nicol the move to Dundee marked the completion of a torturous six-month rehabilitation from a career-threatening spinal injury, and a chance to make his name in the SPL.

In his one season playing for the Morton first team Nicol racked up 26 appearances, scoring once and creating two further goals for teammates. He averaged 6.65, and looked set for a monster season until injury struck. The deal with Dundee comprises £30,000 cash up front, and a 20% sell-on clause, ensuring Morton were not left feeling ripped-off in any way.

Nicol will be back at Cappielow for a friendly match on July 13th, and he is sure to receive a warm welcome from the Morton fans upon arrival. Dundee beat off opposition from Blackpool for the player, the Seasiders having had a similar bid accepted by the Greenock side's board.

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  • 2 weeks later...


An undefeated preseason set us up nicely for our reunion with Airdrie United in the Challenge Cup. The away side scored two goals in the last ten minutes, but we had five in our back pockets by then, and we advanced to face First Division favourites Ayr United in the next round. Our league campaign also began at Cappielow, and it stuttered and spluttered until with twenty minutes to go Gary Fraser struck. He added another six minutes later, and further goals from Brian Johnstone on 81 and 85 gave us a flattering 4-0 win. We knew we wouldn't always end so strongly, but tucked the three points away happily nonetheless.

With Alan Moran starting in place of the retired Derek Collins our total age dropped by over 20 years, and the new youthful side, featuring Paul Craig in goals, with Kevin Buchanan having dropped to the u19 squad, took on Ayr at Cappielow on Challenge Cup duty. We led 1-0 through Gary Fraser until the 65th minute when Ayr, who had made all three substitutions, lost their keeper to injury. Right back Willie Lyle stepped in, but he let three further goals past him, Fraser completing his hat-trick and Johnstone adding another, and we were through to face Third Division Montrose in the Quarter Finals, this tie though would be on their patch.

Alan Moran tweaked his groin in the Ayr game and faced up to three weeks on the sidelines as we squared up to Partick at Firhill, breaking a run of five consecutive home games, including friendlies. Anthony Reid stepped in at the back, but most of the action was at the opposite end of the field as we dominated a scoreless first half. The missed chances looked set to cost us as Partick were the stronger side in the second period, but a defensive error in the last minute sent Brian Johnstone through on the keeper, but 45 yards out. He advanced to the edge of the box in stride, neatly sidestepped the goalie, and as the home fans physically felt the three points slipping away he slotted it towards goal. It missed though, and the game ended in a frustrating 0-0 draw.

A return game with Ayr - I say return, it too was at Cappielow - came next as the XI who flopped at Firhill were given the chance to redeem themselves against the title favourites. It has always been my thinking to demand victory from eery game until it is apparent that I am being unrealistic. That moment has yet to arrive this season, but a third consecutive goalless half was starting to drive me to drink. The fourth soon followed, and we even lost Andy Hamilton to a calf injury that will keep him out for five long months, through to January 2007.

We felt for sure that a goal would come at Montrose, they were mismatched after all, and the perfect chance came in the 45th minute when we were awarded a penalty. Gary Fraser stepped up and scored, and you could hear the monkey falling off our backs. (ooh-ah-ee-ee-ee) Fraser nodded a second from a corner early in the second half, but worryingly Brian Johnstone was carried off. Tests later showed his hamstring in shreds. It would be February before he played again, and he certainly wouldn't be fit for the semi final at home to St Johnstone. It had been a bad month, and we were happy to bid August farewell.

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League defeats at Ross County (2-0) and at home to Inverness (1-0) sandwiched a good League Cup win at East Fife (3-0) were not the perfect preparation for a Challenge Cup semi final at home to St Johnstone. With a midfielder at right back and a right back at left back we were always up against it, but Scott McGowan did have us ahead before Stuart Lovell tied it up midway through the first half. A scoreless second meant extra time, and we snatched the lead in the 103rd minute when Gary Fraser robbed a defender, ran through and scored through the keeper's legs. That meant the second spell of extra time was a chance to hang on, but we had no intention of that. A Fraser shot came off the post to David Davidson less than 1 yard out and the young striker made it 3-1. As time expired the relief was palpable, we were in the final, though Ross County would start that match as favourites.

We were immediately back in action against the Saints, at their ground on league duty, and again we led early on, Gary Fraser scoring. This time though we didn't lose such a quick leveller, and Fraser nodded a second from a corner shortly before the break. We comfortably played out the second to pick up three valuable points, and another reunion with Airdrie United was imminent.

The first goal of this contest looked set to come early as both sides went close in the opening ten minutes, but it wasn't until the 25th minute that a fine strike from Gary Fraser broke the deadlock. Chances dried up though after the break, and Airdrie went close through Marvyn Wilson, concentrating our minds somewhat. David Davidson came off the bench to make it 2-0 though, and we were able to take it easy and close out the game, earning a trip to Dundee United in the process.

We ended September with a game at Raith and parity was only maintained by virtue of the woodwork as the home side threatened in the first half. Gary Fraser had to be carried off in the first half though, causing us some headaches, and David Davidson was sent on in his stead. He handed us a second half lead, but Raith were immediately level, and we trailed moments later as Shaun Kerr notched a second. Raith were reduced to ten men within three minutes after a professional foul on King by Talio, and we set about trying to take advantage. Raith though caught us on the break, making it 3-1 in the last minute, and that, as they say, was that.

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Four Gary Fraser goals, two in each half, saw Falkirk demolished 4-0 at Cappielow, but that piqued the interest of Sheffield Wednesday who had an £18,000 bid accepted on the Monday, and Fraser completed the move on the Tuesday. On a brighter note Stephen Lynch made his way into the Scotland u21 squad, providing one reason to celebrate. Another came later in the week as Stewart Greacen's £100,000 move from Wigan to West Ham netted us a £10,000 windfall.

A trip to Dumfries was a pleasant respite from the off-field dramas of the preceding week, and Queen of the South have been good opponents for us of late. In the post-Fraser era we went with Davidson and King up front, but the former spurned a simple early chance as the visiting fans started a chorus of "One Gary Fraser". After a goalless first half both sides were cautious in the second, and there was next to no goalmouth action as the game ended nil-nil, lifting us to fifth place in the league.

Good form for the u19s saw Mark Russell brought up to the senior squad following Fraser's departure, and he was on the bench for the Challenge Cup final at Hampden, some luck! A training injury the day before the game meant David Davidson would miss the game, sad for him, but what an opportunity for Mark Wilson, thrust into the team for the game. Only thirty seconds into the action County hit the post with a fine drive from Winters, but we bounced back and went close ourselves in the opening exchanges. The opening goal was delayed until the second half as we fought hard, but two minutes into the half Conor Gethins made it 1-0 from close range. Mark Russell was sent into the action late on as we chased an equaliser that would force extra time, but County defended valiantly through five minutes of injury time to lift the trophy in front of an extraordinary 38379 spectators.

The same guys had to lift themselves three days later for the League Cup game at Tannadice, a game we knew had to remain 0-0 for as long as we could possibly manage. 45 minutes came and went and we were still level, infact both King and Wilson had spurned decent chances, but it was right back to square one for the second period. Little over two minutes into the half we lost the goal we had feared as Danny Griffin headed home a corner from Paterson. From then we were on a hiding to nothing, and Gary Watson made it 2-0 with 15 minutes to go. We held firm from then on, but couldn't nick a consolation, and our cup participation was reduced from three to one in the space of three days.

November was only one game old and already it was shaping up to be a bad month.

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