Duffy rues fine mar­gins as play-off dream fades

Mor­ton man­ager laments con­ces­sion of three late win­ners to fourth-place Raith

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - STE­WART FISHER

MOR­TON’S play­ers must be heartily sick of the sight of Raith Rovers by now. Con­ced­ing a win­ning goal late on in one match is bad enough. To lose one in the 89th minute or later on all three meet­ings with the same op­po­nents, turn­ing what would have been a one-point gap with six games to go into a ten-point chasm, of­fers a whole dif­fer­ent kind of dis­tress.

Think how they must feel as they pre­pare to wel­come the Kirk­caldy out­fit to Cap­pielow on Satur­day, know­ing a vic­tory is the bare min­i­mum re­quired to keep their slim play-off hopes alive.

“It is not that of­ten it hap­pens against the same team in three games,” said Jim Duffy, the Mor­ton man­ager. “Ev­ery one was the 90th minute or so, so it has been a kick in the teeth each time, and frus­trat­ing for us.

“It shows you that the matches are very close but it also shows you that their de­ter­mi­na­tion to win those matches is some­thing which has given them that wee edge over the rest of the teams chas­ing that fourth spot.

“I know Ray very well and his as­sis­tant Darren Tay­lor too from be­ing up in Dundee and they are great, great guys.

“It’s not just the games be­tween us but if we had done a bit bet­ter in those games then the gap wouldn’t have been so big. But that is football some­times. Raith have got a stran­gle­hold of that po­si­tion and it would be un­likely be­tween here and the end of the sea­son that they would let that po­si­tion slip.”

The dy­namic be­tween the two teams is awk­ward enough with­out Raith nip­ping in to nick one of Mor­ton’s best play­ers on a pre-con­tract. Bobby Barr, who 12 months back was fea­tur­ing for McKin­non’s Brechin City side against Mor­ton de­spite hav­ing ver­bally agreed to sign for the Cap­pielow club, has agreed a pre-con­tract to spend his next cou­ple of sea­sons in Kirk­caldy.

Duffy reck­ons too much is made of such mat­ters in this coun­try, and will have no hang-ups about play­ing him in such a make-or-break match.

“We have no is­sues with Bobby,” said the Mor­ton man­ager. “In this coun­try we seem to make more of this as­pect than they do in Europe. On the con­ti­nent, no-one bats an eye­lid – man­agers or play­ers – about com­mit­ting them­selves. But when some­body does it in this coun­try, ev­ery­one seems to get a bit up­tight.

“Maybe fans think he is not show­ing the level of com­mit­ment they want, or the level of loy­alty. But we don’t pay play­ers in this coun­try an amount that they can go and re­tire on, so if some­body thinks they can go and get a bet­ter deal, or it is a longer-term con­tract, a bit more se­cu­rity or what­ever, then they are fully en­ti­tled to take that.

“He has been an in­te­gral part of the team all sea­son and he will con­tinue to be, whether it is Raith or any­one else that we play dur­ing the rest of the sea­son.”

In terms of com­mit­ting them­selves for next sea­son, re­cruit­ment at Cap­pielow has gen­er­ally been put on hold un­til the club’s fate is known. That in­cludes Duffy’s own fu­ture, with his con­tract set to ex­pire this sum­mer.

“We’ve not re­ally sat down, we want to get the next month out the way be­fore we look to that,” he said. “We could sign some­one on a pre-con­tract if we thought it was right, but in terms of the play­ers we have here, we have five guys on loan, and maybe an­other eight out of con­tract, so let’s get the next four or five weeks out the way then we will sit down with the guys and start to plan for next sea­son.

“My own con­tract situation isn’t weigh­ing on my mind. It is part and par­cel of football. But I love it here, I love the job and get on well with the chair­man. We will see what hap­pens over the next few weeks, just the same as the play­ers.”

Who­ever makes it into fourth, whether it is Raith, Mor­ton or Queen of the South, Duffy knows that all have done enough to prove they can put a span­ner in the works when it comes to the play-offs.

“Hibs and Falkirk will be in the play­offs,” said Duffy, “and ob­vi­ously Rangers will win the league, and then it looks like it’s Raith. But when you get in the play-offs, it is about han­dling it on the day, get­ting that wee break, so I don’t think any­body is favourites when it comes to that.”

Michael Tidser went in for a her­nia op­er­a­tion yes­ter­day, and Conor Pep­per re­quires tidy-up surgery to heal a car­ti­lage is­sue in his knee, while Peter MacDon­ald and Frank McKe­own re­main on the long-term in­jury list.

IN HIS EL­E­MENT: Jim Duffy, who is out of con­tract at the end of the sea­son, is en­joy­ing life as Mor­ton man­ager

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