Manager Jim Duffy said Saturday’s dramatic Hogmanay derby draw was a fitting way to end what had been a positive 2016 for the club.
Despite being down to 10 men and a goal behind away at rivals St Mirren, Morton dug deep and fought back to claim a point in thrilling fashion when Ricki Lamie netted what was his first goal for the club to level things up in the second minute of stoppage time.
Gaffer Duffy was thrilled with a share of the spoils considering the circumstances and took time to pay tribute to the tremendous team spirit that not only characterised their display in Paisley but through the year that has just passed.
He told gmfc.net: “Just after the sending off, they gathered their own thoughts and basically got round each other and said: ‘Listen, don’t fold! Make sure we stay tight, make sure we stay compact, and make sure we stay in the game.
“And to be fair, that resilience and togetherness was one of the major reasons why we managed to get something from the game, and I suppose it does feel like a win.
“I mean we were on the end of it here at the start of the season, conceding a late goal, so it was nice to turn the table for a change – and I think we definitely deserved a point, there’s no doubt about it.
“I felt in the first half we were relatively comfortable in the game. It was a set-piece that undone us, but, you know, other than that I felt there wasn’t too much in the game.
“It was difficult conditions, but there wasn’t much in the game. We had one or two chances: Mark [Russell] had a good shot saved by the keeper, we had a great ball across the face of the goal, and we hit the bar.
“So I felt that in chances created, we probably just edged it in the first half. In the second half, other than the five-minute spell after the sending off, which of course you have to get to grips with the game, I felt we defended superbly well.
“We denied St Mirren any real clear-cut opportunities, and the longer you can stay like that then there’s always a chance you can nick something at the end.
“The players deserve an enormous amount of credit, and so do the fans. I thought they were really good today, really supportive. Even at 1-0 down with 11 men, you could hear our fans really singing and being really positive.
“I thought that was important. It always is important to players because it gives them that confidence to try a pass, and if they make a pass and it doesn’t come off and the fans aren’t critical, it’s a massive help.
“I thought today, overall, it was a good day for Morton. Both the fans and the players deserve an enormous amount of credit. It was a terrific way to end 2016.
“As a football club, it’s been a good year for a lot of things: the development of the players, the progress the club has made on and off the pitch.
“So to get that point with the last kick of the ball almost was a fitting way to end the year. Our fans can be rightfully proud of their team – not just today, but over the course of the year. And we’ll see what 2017 brings.”
Jamie McDonagh was the man who saw red for an off-the-ball incident on the hour mark, and although Duffy felt the dismissal was justified, he refused to be too harsh on the young Northern Irishman.
He added: “It was a moment of silliness, a crazy split second. But listen it happens with players. I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I didn’t say I had a few moments.
“But in a derby you’ve got to remain disciplined; you’ve got to stay in control. Jamie just flicked out with his foot. I don’t think he meant to catch the boy on the head, but the boy had slid in and his head is on the grass.
“If it was on his [Rocco Quinn’s body] he might have got a yellow card, but because it was his head, the referee is 100 per cent correct to give him a red card. I’ve got no issue with that whatsoever.
“So he let himself and his team-mates down – but he’s 20 years of age, he’s been great for us and he’ll learn from it. He’s a competitor and I want to keep that side of him.
“He’s just lost it for a split second and we’re not going to crucify him for it. He’s made an error and his team-mates got him out of jail.”
Although the Cappielow gaffer agreed with the red card call, he was adamant his side should have been awarded a spot-kick when Gary Oliver took a boot flush in the face in the first half.
Duffy explained: “We should have had a penalty. No doubt about it. When the ball hit the bar, he’s went to head it in the net and as he’s done that, the boy’s kicked him in the face.
“A complete kick in the face. His nose is burst, his lip is swollen, he was disorientated and dizzy. There was blood all over his jersey and his shorts.
“We couldn’t put him back on because he was completely all over the place at half-time, to be honest, so we couldn’t take a risk when it comes to a situation like that. A player’s health is paramount, so he had to be substituted.”
Images: David Bell