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ANALYSIS REPORT: Morton v St Mirren (U20s)

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Morton beat fierce rivals St Mirren to secure their passage to the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday in a hotly-contested game.

Morton manager Darren Barr made one change from the team that beat Turriff United 3-0 in the previous round, with Ben Eardley replacing Cameron Hayes in the starting lineup. Mitchell Duffy moved to left-back, with Eardley starting on the left wing.

The hosts lined up in a 4-4-2 with Jack Purdue and Ben Armour leading the line. St Mirren, meanwhile, lined up in a 4-2-3-1 – Sam Jamieson was the lone forward while in central midfield, Conor McBrearty and Cameron MacPherson took turns holding in front of the defence and pushing up the park with one always remaining back.

Morton took the lead after just five minutes when Eardley converted a rebound from Ruaridh Langan’s penalty. With an early lead secured the home side sat back a little, allowing the St Mirren forwards to press the Morton defence relentlessly, giving them no time on the ball.

The Saints front line was very fluid, with their front five players often swapping roles in an effort to disrupt the Morton defence. The Ton stuck to their rigid system, keeping the pitch narrow and leaving little space through the middle for the visitors to exploit.

St Mirren pushed their full-backs up to overlap the midfield in an attempt to find space and were fairly successful. Because they were trailing St Mirren were forced to play a high back line, resulting in the Morton defence playing long balls forward for Armour and Purdue to chase in an attempt to stretch the Saints defence.

For the home side, right-winger David Anderson largely remained in midfield, leaving the task of supporting the strikers to Eardley on the left.

Morton were happy to allow their rivals to push up the park so they could hit them on the counter and this approach paid off after around half an hour of play. Armour was found with a defence-splitting through ball and calmly slotted the ball home to double Morton’s advantage.

McBrearty and MacPherson took turns sitting in front of the St Mirren defence, allowing the rest of the midfield to push forward and support Jamieson up front.

Both sides struggled to retain possession with the tackles flying in all over the pitch. For the last 10 minutes of the half the Paisley side move to 4-1-2-2-1, raising the tempo and intensity in a bid to pull one back before the break but to no avail.

The Saints came flying out of the traps in the second half, desperate to get the goal that would bring them back into the game. They lined up in a 4-2-3-1 in an effort to unlock the Morton defence and created a few decent chances, but were unable to find the net.

By this point the visitors had lost their discipline and flew into a number of increasingly rash tackles. Morton were more than happy to cede possession and play on the counter, and soon grabbed a third in this manner to kill the game.

A minute after the goal, life got even harder for St Mirren after Robbie Leitch was sent off, reducing them to ten men. Unfortunately for the Buddies, it wouldn’t be their last dismissal of the afternoon.

St Mirren played with a 4-3-2, giving themselves options in attack at the expense of having numbers in midfield. To their credit, they managed to pull one back with around ten minutes to go but it wasn’t enough to pull them back into the game.

There was still time for Cameron MacPherson and Evan Horne to get sent off, giving the away side no chance of getting back into the contest as they finished the match with just eight men on the pitch.

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