Duffy: Players have earned Christmas night out

Morton manager Jim Duffy told his players to go and enjoy a well-deserved Christmas night out in Liverpool after an impressive 1-1 draw with Hibernian on Saturday.

The Ton squad departed for their annual festive season bash in high spirits right after picking up a point against Neil Lennon’s league leaders.

It was in similar circumstances that they left for the same destination last term when they headed south on the back of a memorable 2-2 draw with Rangers at Ibrox.

A thrilled Duffy said the squad were entitled to go and enjoy themselves for their efforts both during the Championship campaign so far and at the weekend in particular.

He told gmfc.net: “I’m absolutely delighted with the performance and I think it was a really good point. The boys can go and enjoy themselves now as long as they behave and come back in one piece.

“They know they are going to get a fair bit of running when they come back. I’ve told them that – but they’re entitled to enjoy it.

“They’ve put in a lot of work this season and they are all young guys, so they can go and have a bit of togetherness, a bit of fun and enjoy themselves.

“And they can enjoy it a wee bit better after a performance like today’s. It was similar last year after the 2-2 draw with Rangers at Ibrox.

“So maybe the best thing to do is to look at the calendar and figure out who the biggest team in the league is and organise the Christmas night out!”

Game changer … Cummings celebrates scoring with a free-kick minutes after coming on       © David Bell

The Greenock men actually took the lead against the Easter Road outfit at the weekend before Jason Cummings rescued a draw with a late free-kick, but Duffy still viewed it as a valuable point.

He added: “Of course you get greedy when you score the first goal, but the free-kick is well executed. There’s not much you can do about that. You’ve got to just applaud it, that’s talent, and Jason Cummings has got that in his locker.

“But the strike that Ross [Forbes] had was a phenomenal strike, and also Jamie as well. He’s had to cut it because it bounced so high, and then Gary gambles on it.

“It would have been easy to think: ‘God, we’ve been unlucky there – twice!’ but thankfully Gary gambled and got his reward, smashing into the net.

“Overall, I thought it was a good game, a really competitive game. In the first half we were the better side; in the second half they started to get a grip of the game, which was understandable when you’ve put so much work into it.

“In the latter stages of the game, they have brought on two substitutes – Holt and Cummings – and that freshness gave them a bit impetus, and we just had to dig in then and make sure we were organised and didn’t give anything away.

“We tried to press higher up the pitch because I felt that last time [the 4-0 loss at Easter Road in August] we just sat off them.

“With Hibs playing the three at the back and Commons off the front – it was Shinnie last time – we knew that if we gave them time and space to get their heads up, they could pick those little passes.

“But pretty much the whole game, other than the last five minutes, when we just ran out of steam because of the amount of work they put in, I thought they did that very well.

“We can go on about commitment, organisation, and work ethic, which was there in abundance, but I think we played really good football at times, created some great chances and had shots on target.

“And let’s put it in perspective. We were playing Hibs who with the size of the club, the resources they have, the expectations they have, and today shows how we have moved on and progressed.

“That’s not just in terms of the footballing side but mentally. I think we are now better mentally than we were earlier on in the season. We have a belief. If we go and work as hard as we do, then we’ve got good players.”

Early change … Lee Kilday replaces the injured Kudus Oyenuga after 16 minutes               © David Bell

Morton lost both Jamie Lindsay and Jai Quitongo to early injuries at Dunfermline last Saturday, and Duffy was hit with another early blow at the weekend when Kudus Oyenuga was forced off with a hamstring problem after just 16 minutes.

He reshuffled his pack by bringing on club captain Lee Kilday to play at right-back in order to push converted defender Jamie McDonagh back up front.

And the gaffer explained: “It was a difficult one, because normally I would have put Michael Doyle on at right-back, but it was more to do with the physicality.

“Lee has been playing mostly at centre-back and I thought maybe from set-pieces that we maybe needed that wee bit more presence.

“Michael has magnificent athleticism and is really good in one-on-one situations, but I didn’t think that would have been the problem, because they play with wing-backs.

“It’s either [Lewis] Stevenson or [David] Gray who’s wide as opposed to an out-and-out winger. If it was an out-and-out winger, I’d have probably put Michael on, but I felt it would be more about getting balls up to [Brian] Graham.

“Putting Lee on meant looking right across our back four we were big and strong and that gave us that presence to deal with anything Hibs threw at us.

“I thought the two front players deserve an awful lot of credit because the back three of Hibs are really, really powerful, really very physically strong and really good players.

“From our point of view, it’s really hard when you’re up against these guys, so for our two boys to give them a game and make it difficult for them right through the 90 minutes … I was delighted.”

Polished performance … Michael Tidser earned his manager’s acclaim                                     © David Bell

Duffy felt the whole team deserved tremendous credit for their contributions but also mentioned the performances of Michael Tidser and O’Ware, revealing the latter played despite being unwell through the week.

He said: “Michael Tidser came in tonight after being out injured for a long time. I know he played against Beith and came off the bench last week, but he started the game tonight and I thought he was outstanding.

“Tam O’Ware made two outstanding blocks, and he had been ill yesterday [Friday] and Thursday. He was sick and had been touch and go.

“He phoned me to say he was feeling a bit better so we decided to put him in, and him and Gavin [Gunning] were again terrific together.

“Overall, I could go right through the whole team and praise them all to be honest with you because everyone played their part tonight.”


Images: David Bell