Morton draw is more evidence of why Hearts want to escape the Championship
This is specifically the type of fixture Hearts want to escape from when they return to the Premiership next season.
Playing their first match since winning the Championship title, the Edinburgh club found themselves frustrated and stifled in Greenock against a Morton team desperately trying to avoid the division’s relegation play-off.
A scrappy evening’s football wasn’t enlivened much by a good deal of sunshine at Cappielow Park. While much of football is consumed by talk of a European Super League, Hearts will be glad simply to be heading back to Scotland’s top flight.
Whether they can escape this kind of uninspiring performance remains to be seen. Their team will look significantly different with much recruitment activity planned this summer, which is probably just as well. Many of these Championship games have been a difficult watch and it was no different on the banks of the River Clyde.
Morton battled for their lives and competed for every ball on an uneven surface, roared on enthusiastically from the technical area by manager Gus MacPherson. Those in maroon enjoyed the majority of possession but, once again, could only lament the missing guile needed to break the hosts’ resistance.
After a 6-0 destruction of Alloa Athletic in their previous fixture, Hearts named the same starting line-up. Morton made two changes to the side which took Premiership Motherwell to penalties in the Scottish Cup at the weekend as Kalvin Orsi and Lewis Strapp returned.
The Greenock side gave their guests a guard of honour prior to kick-off and then promptly rattled their goalframe through Orsi in the opening seconds. He collected Lewis Strapp’s head flick and fired the ball against Craig Gordon’s right post.
It signalled an aggressive start from Morton as they denied Hearts space and time on the ball. An instinctive attempt from Brian McLean nestled in Gordon’s hands following a corner, and moments later Armand Gnanduillet's clearance ricocheted off McLean and into the grateful goalkeeper’s arms.
At the opposite end, the visitors were struggling to create clear openings. Their forward passes weren’t held up or utilised well enough by forwards, resulting in play frequently breaking down inside the Morton half.
Gnanduillet and Euan Henderson both saw attempts blocked early in the second half, then Peter Haring’s header was pushed for a corner by the Morton goalkeeper Aidan McAdams. Hearts needed more width but the tousy nature of the game continued.
With darkness descending on Inverclyde, those in blue-and-white-hooped jerseys chased and harried at every opportunity. The final stages were predictably tense as Morton sought to hold on to the point which would take them level with third-bottom Ayr United in the Championship table.
They got their wish as Hearts’ push for a late winner proved fruitless. They finished the game with Craig Halkett – commanding at centre-back – playing centre-forward but simply didn’t trouble the home defence enough over the 90 minutes.
Morton (4-2-3-1): McAdams; Ledger, Fjortoft, McLean, McGinty; McGinn, Jacobs (Oliver 82); Nesbitt, Lyon (Colville 82), Strapp; Orsi (Easdale 87).
Hearts (3-4-1-2): Gordon; M Smith, Halkett, Souttar; Logan (Mackay-Steven 62), McEneff (McGill 78), Haring, Halliday; Boyce; Henderson (Naismith 62), Gnanduillet.