Jim Duffy: Players have achieved something special

Proud manager Jim Duffy last night hailed his Morton heroes and said they had achieved something special by taking the Cappielow club to their first national cup semi-final in 35 years.

First-half goals from in-form teenage frontman Jai Quitongo and long-serving defender Thomas O’Ware proved enough to book the Ton’s place in the final four of the Betfred Cup despite Nick van der Velden’s 55th-minute strike.

For their last appearance at this stage of a national tournament, you have to go way back to 1981 and a Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers at Celtic Park.

To put that into perspective, it even predates the Ton boss’s spell as a player, and club captain, here in Greenock between 1982 and 1985 – and he was over the moon that the current crop had managed a feat so many before them had been unable to attain.

He told gmfc.net: “Overall, it was a fantastic night for the football club, for the the reputation and the finances of course. Andy Bryan told me that the last time Morton were in a League Cup semi-final was 1978.

“It’s a long, long time ago. That shows you, with the amount of fantastic sides that have been here over those years and we’ve managed to do that and a lot of great sides haven’t shows you how tough it is to achieve that.

“For a club like us to be in the semi-final alongside the other three teams is fantastic. We’ve beaten two Premiership sides previously and a top-class side tonight and the boys deserved it.

“I’m just delighted for the players. It’s brilliant. You don’t set out with that [making history] in mind, you just go and try to win the game, but for them to achieve this is special.”

As well as the playing squad, Duffy was also delighted for chairman Douglas Rae and the supporters, adding: “I’m delighted for the chairman. We don’t know where the semi-final will be or who we’ll play.

“But I think it will be great just for the chairman to see his team in the semi-final; I think it will be a proud moment for him and I’m delighted for him.

“It was great for the players to hear the backing they got tonight. Midway through the second half I did hear an encouraging roar. Our fans started roaring for our players, particularly when they were chasing lost causes.

“That makes such a difference for players because it just encourages them to give even that little bit more. It’s fantastic when you get that and tonight everyone gets a share of the plaudits. The fans were terrific.”

In terms of the players’ performance, the Greenock gaffer was thrilled and reckons his team fully earned their place in Thursday evening’s semi-final draw.

He added: “I thought we defended our penalty box really, really well and I can’t remember Andy having too many saves to make in the second half, but we always still looked a threat.

“We would have liked to have been a little bit more on the counter-attack, but the players were getting tired and we were shifting things around.

“Dundee United were always going to come out the traps in the second half, of course they were. You could see one or two of the boys getting a wee bit edgy, slicing the ball up in the air, but we weathered a 10 or 15-minute storm and defended pretty well.

“Listen, United are a terrific side. They have huge ambitions to get back to the Premiership, our ambition is just to try and win as many games as we possibly can.

“You look at their squad and their bench, and you look at our players. Some of them had absolutely nothing left in the tank. For the effort they put in, that alone meant they deserved to be in the semi-final.

“It’s not that Dundee United didn’t work hard. I mean, they put everything into the game and threw everything at us. But we defended brilliantly, worked ever so hard and our shape was great.

“Tonight was our night. It was a cup quarter-final, we’re in the semis, and we’ll enjoy before regrouping and preparing for Saturday.”


Image: David Bell