Duffy: Players did themselves proud against Aberdeen

Morton manager Jim Duffy experienced a real mix of emotions after seeing his gutsy young team fall just short in their 2-0 semi-final loss against Aberdeen at Hampden Park yesterday afternoon.

The fact his side pushed the Premiership outfit all the way before conceding to a controversial Adam Rooney header on 69 minutes and a Kenny McLean tap-in at the death was a real source of pride to the Cappielow gaffer.

On the other hand, the 57-year-old was also disappointed to come so close to claiming that elusive first final appearance since 1963, as well as feeling a sense of anger at the fact Rooney’s opener was offside.

Speaking exclusively to gmfc.net, just outside the Hampden dressing room minutes after the final whistle, he said: “I’m obviously disappointed about losing the match, of course.

“We got this far and we wanted to try and take it a stage further and we asked the players to give it everything and make it a tough day for Aberdeen – I think the vast majority of people before the game thought it would be a formality and would run over the top of us – and we did that.

“And with us, such a young, inexperienced team against a team blessed with huge talent all over the pitch, then I think we have to be very proud of our efforts today.

“Aberdeen I think will finish second in the league this year for the third season in a row and they are one of the most consistent teams in the Premiership, so for us to compete as well as we did right through says a lot about the players.

“They came out the traps and we knew that and we were obviously a bit shell-shocked in the first 10 minutes, but we managed to feel our way into the game, and not losing a goal at that time was important.

“Then you could just see us grow a wee bit and sure enough they scored at the point that had been the calmest point in the game for us, passing the ball and looking relaxed and they were a bit edgy.

“But they an experienced team and an experienced team will keep moving, you, keep shifting the ball, wear you down and eventually concentration can go.

“The only disappointing thing is that the first goal I’m led to believe was offside, and if it was that was bitterly disappointing, because the first goal was pivotal in the game. The second goal we’re chasing the game and you can get caught on the counter and we’re absolutely shattered at that time as well.”

Red-hot teenage hitman Jai Quitongo had a great chance to open the scoring at 0-0 just before half-time, but Duffy put it down to a great save from Dons keeper Joe Lewis rather than an opportunity spurned.

He explained: “Obviously we had a couple of chances in the game and that can sometimes give you a platform to hang on. It was a great ball and a great run by Jai, but listen it’s against a top-class goalkeeper who is 6ft 5in who spreads himself.

“He [Quitongo] didn’t do anything badly wrong. You know, he’s opened his body up, made a good clean connection and I think it’s hit the keeper’s toe spreading himself, so it’s a fraction away.

“And I thought him and Gary [Oliver] were outstanding. Their link-up play, work ethic, chasing, dropping into midfield to play for the team and execute the tactics, and I thought the two of them were outstanding.

“Everybody was, but the front two set the tone, because if they’re not prepared to work and just want to be strikers and play only when they get it then it makes it difficult for everyone else.”

Mutual respect … Morton players salute the support as they receive a standing ovation at full-time             © David Bell

The Greenock men were followed by a 4,000-plus army of supporters who never wavered in their backing for the full 90 minutes, and Duffy paid tribute to the fans after the match.

He added: “Overall I think every player gave everything in a Morton jersey and I think the fans should be proud of them. And credit to the supporters today, I thought they were superb today.

“They kept singing, they kept chanting and they gave the players a round of applause at the end of the game – a standing ovation – and I think that was vital for that rapport between the players and the supporters.

“I think that was terrific today and hopefully they saw players playing for the jersey, and the players responding to that vocal support. So overall from that side we’re delighted but ultimately we’re a bit disappointed we couldn’t take it a stage further.

“They deserve enormous credit and have grown up a bit as a team today, and hopefully we can carry that type of performance and those levels into our other games. If we can play anywhere close to that there are a lot of teams we can make it difficult for.

“The players can look themselves in the mirror tonight and say they have done themselves, their team, their club, their supporters, and their families proud, and all I can say to them is ‘well done!'”


Image: David Bell