Friday 4th August 2017

AS part of Sons 24, we are once again taking an in-depth look at the nine teams who stand between Dumbarton and the points they need to achieve their goal this season.

The surprise package of last season, tomorrow’s opponents Morton are team number six in our series. The Cappielow side eventually fell at the first hurdle of the play-offs but that, and their Betfred Cup semi-final place, made the 2016/17 campaign a very commendable one for them.

Please note that the views in this article are not necessarily those of Dumbarton FC, its board or any staff.

Dumbarton v Morton: Saturday, August 5; Saturday, December 30.

Morton v Dumbarton: Saturday, October 21; Saturday, March 3.

Last season’s meetings with Dumbarton:

Saturday, August 20 2016- Morton 1 Dumbarton 1
Saturday, November 12 2016 – Dumbarton 0 Morton 2
Saturday, January 7 2017 – Morton 2 Dumbarton 1
Saturday, April 1 2017 – Dumbarton 1 Morton 0

Season 2017/18 so far: Betfred League Cup sectional matches –

Saturday, July 15 – Berwick Rangers 0 Morton 1
Tuesday, July 18 – Morton 2 Queen’s Park 2 (Morton won on penalties)
Saturday, July 22 – Motherwell 4 Morton 0
Saturday, July 29 – Morton 5 Edinburgh City 0

Signings: Darren Barr and Robert Thomson (Dumbarton); Gary Harkins (Ayr United); Jack Iredale (ECU Joondalup); Bob McHugh (Falkirk); Connor McManus (Celtic).

First four league games: Dumbarton (A); St Mirren (H); Inverness CT (A); Livingston (H).

The run-in (last four league games): Livingston (A); Queen of the South (H); St Mirren (A); Inverness CT (H).

Analysis: How can a team not have won a single league game since Saturday, March 18, and yet look back on season 2016/17 with such pride at what they achieved? Answer – when they are Morton.

Certainly the ending to the previous campaign, which saw them fail to win any of their last nine league games and then lose the play-off quarter final to Dundee United, wasn’t what the Cappielow club was hoping for. However, it was the opening three quarters of the league calendar that made this season a positive one. There’s always one team that defies the odds in a cup competition, and that was Morton in last season’s Betfred Cup, reaching the semi-finals where they pushed Aberdeen all the way before losing 2-0.

But any thoughts that the bubble was burst were not accurate. Five months on from that semi-final, Morton won 1-0 at Falkirk in what proved to be their final victory of the season. They ended the afternoon level on points with the second-placed Bairns with two games in hand, and four clear of Dundee United with one game in hand. Perhaps most tellingly, they were THIRTEEN points ahead of fifth-placed Queen of the South having played two games less. Tipped by many to finish mid-table and with a quarter of their season left, they were more than four wins’ worth of points clear.

The close season, though, has been one of change at Cappielow. They have lost the on-loan Celtic pair of Jamie Lindsay and Aidan Nesbitt, while Kudus Oyenuga may not have been terribly prolific overall last season, but Dumbarton certainly experienced the brunt of his finishing ability, conceding to him twice. In fact, despite their success last season, Morton didn’t really have a go-to player for goals, instead seeing several players scoring fairly often.

This season Sons know all about the player who could be the Cappielow side’s biggest goal threat. Robert Thomson needed only one season at this level with Dumbarton to convince a full-time outfit that he was worth signing. As Sons will readily tell you, when the tall forward is on form, he’s unplayable and is capable of some astonishing goals. If Morton can source another midfielder with Lindsay’s creative quality, there is no doubt in many people’s mind that Thomson is capable of the step up.

Any thoughts of kicking on from last season, though, should be treated with some caution down Sinclair Street. The last time Morton came close to winning promotion was season 2012/13 and the next campaign was hoped to be the one where they got over the line. It wasn’t, in fact a raft of signings brought in from several locations in Europe failed to have the desired effect, as did the appointment of Kenny Shiels as manager midway through the season. Morton did bounce back from League One at the first time of asking, but it is not an experience they or their fans will want to repeat.

And there are two other words which should exercise trepidation when it comes to tipping a team who did well in one season to repeat the feat in the next. Raith Rovers.

Morton, as ever, will not be an easy team to play against. However, if they can’t arrest the decline they have been on since March in terms of league results, they will do well to match last season’s very commendable achievements.

Verdict: They have to hit the ground running to stand any realistic chance of reaching the top four again. There’s every chance they could do just that though (although it would be preferred if they could start next week!).

Join the debate @dumbartonfc and #sons24

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