Duffy rues fine margins as play-off dream fades
Morton manager laments concession of three late winners to fourth-place Raith
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