Many Morton fans had probably heard very little about Denny Johnstone when he arrived at the club at the beginning of the season but the 20 year-old striker has made a positive impact so far. With the loss of last season’s top scorer Declan McManus an undoubted blow to the Ton, the arrival of Johnstone at the end of July was a great boost just before the beginning of the season. Johnstone began his professional career at Celtic but did not make any appearances before moving down south and joining Birmingham City.
Birmingham were not the only club interested in the striker’s signature with Dundee United’s attempts to sign him thwarted by an inability to agree a compensation fee with Celtic. In his time at Parkhead, he also made six appearances for the Scotland under-19 side and has also represented his country at under-16, under-17 and under-18 levels. Having joined Birmingham in 2014, he has made two substitute appearance but is now in his fourth loan spell away from the club.
He is currently in the second year of a three year contract at City. Prior to coming to Cappielow, Denny had stints with Macclesfield Town, Cheltenham Town and Burton Albion. In those spells, Johnstone made a total of 21 appearances and scored five goals. He was also a part of the Burton Albion squad which won the English League Two title. After trying his luck in England, Johnstone has now come back to Scotland to try and pick up some valuable experience with Morton in the Championship. Since joining the Ton, the young striker has scored five goals, the first of which came against Elgin City in a 5-0 win in the first round of the League Cup.
Johnstone also gave the Ton fans a real moment of excitement when he scored the opener against St Johnstone in the League Cup quarter final, although in the end it was unfortunately not enough. Probably the most important goal Johnstone has scored came last weekend when he scored the winner five minutes from time against Dumbarton who started the game three points adrift of Morton.
While Johnstone may be disappointed with his goal return so far this season, his play elsewhere on the pitch has been impressive and he will also be boosted having scored two goals in his last two games. On how the move to Morton came about, Denny said, “Jim Duffy obviously worked with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank at Chelsea years ago and obviously I was on loan for a few months at Jimmy’s team and we won the League Two title in England. “The two of them had a conversation on the phone and it sort of materialised from there. I wanted to come back up to Scotland for a bit more experience.” Having been a regular in the Ton’s starting line-up, Denny the striker said, “It has been really good and I’m learning a lot. Obviously I’ve not hit the marks that I set for myself yet in terms of goal scoring but I’m just trying to be patient. “I think if I can kick on after the goal against St Johnstone. I think my general play hasn’t been too bad but I just need to try and get a few more goals.”
When asked about the team’s start to the Championship season, he said, “I think we started not too bad, obviously we won the three away games earlier on in the season which sort of set a marker and then we had a little dip from the Rangers game but I think we’re starting to pick up our performances again and hopefully we’ll get another few good results in the coming weeks.” Having scored the opener in the League Cup Quarter Final, Denny gave his thoughts on the game, “Against St Johnstone it was obviously unfortunate to give away the first goal because you never know what could have happened had we not conceded that penalty. “I thought we competed well considering they are notoriously gritty to play against and always do well in cups. They have a lot of experience through their team and I thought we defended pretty well from set-pieces in the first half and I thought that was where there main threat was coming from because they were big and physical.”
Having recently beaten Alloa and Dumbarton to create a gap between themselves and the bottom teams, Denny said, “I think it’s important to beat teams down the bottom to make sure we put that distance between us and them. Obviously we have much higher ambitions but we definitely need to beat these teams to create the gap.” On the team’s ambitions for the season, the 20 year-old said, “In a lot of the matches we’ve been unlucky to lose games where we could have picked up points so I think if we sort that out and hold on to the final whistle then you never know. “You look at the likes of Raith Rovers and Falkirk up in third and fourth and in my opinion as a squad I don’t think they are any better than us so there’s no reason we can’t be there at the end of the season.” Having scored in his last two games against St Johnstone and Dumbarton, Johnstone will be looking to add more goals against Livingston today. He will also be boosted by the return of fellow striker Alex Samuel who came on as a substitute last weekend and set-up the winning goal for Johnstone.
This article originally appeared in the Morton v Livingston programme dated November 7th 2015.