There could be another Ton of trouble if Hibs let it slip

It was, arguably, the shock result of last season in the Championship, Morton pitching up at Easter Road to leave Alan Stubbs and his players stunned as they romped to a 3-0 win.

Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:30 am
Hibs star Liam Henderson turns and looks aghast after Thomas OWare celebrates scoring at Easter Road

No-one had given Jim Duffy’s side a hope. Hibs, after all, had lost just once in their previous 28 games. But that defeat at the end of February was to derail Hibs’ hopes of promotion.

From having looked practically invincible, there was a sudden frailty about the team which crashed to two more defeats in the following six days, finding themselves three down at half-time at Dumbarton, although they were to pull the final result back to 3-2, and then losing 1-0 against Queen of the South at Palmerston Park.

And to rub salt into Hibs’ wounds, the Greenock club signalled the end of all hope of pipping Rangers to the title by holding them to a no-scoring draw at Cappielow.

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However, while those two results in themselves were of significance, Morton proved problematical opponents throughout the season. It needed Jason Cummings – who else? – to step from the bench and almost immediately claim the only goal of the game against the side newly promoted from League One.

And on their first visit to Cappielow it took a single strike from Anthony Stokes to earn the Edinburgh club all three points.

Much has changed since the end of last season, of course. Neil Lennon replacing Stubbs at the helm and then setting about imposing his own style of play while also reshaping the squad he had inherited.

It’s been to good effect with Hibs having won their opening three league games for the first time since 1974. But even so those players who remain from last season will no doubt recall the difficulties Morton posed.

Although it will be a vastly different Morton team Lennon’s players face on Saturday – Duffy having lost key members of his squad in Bobby Barr, Luca Gasparotto, Denny Johnstone, and Declan McManus, the signs are they’ll prove just as tough to beat this season.

Already Duffy’s players have recorded Betfred Cup victories over Premiership opponents Kilmarnock and Hamilton and if the start to their Championship season may not have been quite as eye-catching, it’s been solid, three successive wins to their name.

And that, insists Ton defender Thomas O’Ware – who opened the scoring on that fateful night in February – proves that Duffy’s men are going to be just as resilient as they were in securing a fifth-place finish last season, a point proved with a battling draw against Dumbarton last weekend which all at Cappielow admitted they barely deserved.

Morton currently sit sixth in the table and O’Ware insists it’s been a reasonably satisfying beginning.

He said: “It’s been three draws, which isn’t a bad start because obviously we’ve not been beaten yet. A point isn’t a bad result in this division.

“It shows character that we’ve come back into the game. We do have a good team spirit and we managed to haul it back, so maybe that is the sign of a good team; one that when you’re not playing well you’re still getting a point here and there. You’re not going to walk over anyone in this league.”

Adamant he and his team-mates should be taking more of the chances they create – a view shared by Lennon who has admitted his only criticism of his side thus far is a lack of goals – O’Ware believes Morton have benefited from his defensive pairing captain Lee Kilday, an understanding which is improving with every 90 minutes.

He told the Greenock Telegraph: “It’s a physically bigger back four than we had last year, with Ricki [Lamie] playing at full-back and Doyley [Michael Doyle] coming in.

“Lee and I have formed a really good partnership over the summer.

“I think it’s a good foundation to build on. If we’re not scoring loads of goals it’s always important to defend well.

“I’m enjoying playing next to Lee. I think we’ve both got a good understanding of how each other play, so it’s a good foundation for the rest of the team.”

Meanwhile, Hibs’ Irn-Bru Cup tie against Turriff United will be played on Sunday, September 4, with a 3pm kick-off.

It’s a first competitive fixture against the Scottish Highland Football League side and the match at The Haughs, which only has a capacity of 2135, will be screened live on BBC Alba.

Ticketing information will be announced when Hibs have the relevant information.