Greenock Morton 2 Livingston 1

Saturday 19th January 2013
Greenock Morton 2 Livingston 1
Iru Bru Scottish League First Division
At: Cappielow Park, Sinclair Street
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £15; Programme: £2 (24 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 1913
Duration (45): first-half: 45:52; second-half: 47:49

I needed an excuse for a weekend away and Glasgow seemed to be an obvious destination as the city had avoided all of the heavy snow that had fallen over much of the UK. None was forecast so I travelled yesterday by train, slowly, up the West Coast main line, changing at Crewe and Carlisle, for a two-night break. Football was an obvious attraction, as was the opportunity to explore a city I'd only ever briefly visited on two or three previous occasions.

Out of today’s fixtures, the one at Cappielow Park had a particular attraction as a ground which by and large remained very much unchanged during an era of replacing old stands and terracing or building new stadiums. It certainly lived up to expectations and can rightly be added to a bucket list of grounds to visit. On the field, while not playing at their best, Greenock Morton extended their lead at the top of the Iru Bru Scottish League First Division to five points with a 2-1 victory over fourth-placed Livingston.

From my base, the relatively quiet and peaceful Glasgow Youth Hostel, I walked into the city centre via the pleasant Kelvingrove Park and Sauchiehall Street. Earlier I’d established that the Morton game had been given the green light before leaving Glasgow Central but wasn’t aware of the drama surrounding one source announcing it was off.

The closest station to Cappielow Park, Cartsdyke, is served by trains on the Inverclyde Line from Glasgow Central to Gourock (Saturday departures 06 and 36 minutes past the hour, journey time 39 minutes). With time to spare, however, I took the faster train to Greenock Central (departure 25 minutes past the hour, journey time 30 minutes) so I could explore the centre of Greenock before the match. The town was the birthplace in 1736 of James Watt, the famous engineer and steam engine pioneer, and the Wetherspoon’s pub is named after him. The buildings around Clyde Square also caught my attention, particularly the Victoria Tower (photo right), Wellpark Mid Kirk and Dutch Gable House. With the car at home, my lunchtime pre-match routine was somewhat different with halves of Houston Peter’s Well and Harviestoun Haggis Hunter at the Sir James Watt.

Catching the train back to Cartsdyke station, I made my way to the ground via MacDougal Street and East Hamilton Road. As the turnstiles didn’t open to until around 2 pm, one steward pointed me in the direction of the nearby Norseman pub – don’t be fooled by the closed fish and chip shop and take the side door upstairs to the bar. During the 40 or so minutes I spent in the pub, it gradually filled up and I got chatting to a couple of Livingston fans. They told me they’d started following the team when it moved from Meadowbank to Livingston, having previously supported Aberdeen and the ‘Jambos’ [Hearts]. They’d certainly travelled to most of the Scottish ‘42’ as Livi had been up and down and up the four divisions so know all about ‘groundhopping’. Recently some long disitance travellers from Watford and also Holland had visited The Braidwood Motor Company Stadium (Almondvale Park).

I should mention the giant Titan Cantilever Crain at James Watt Dock close to the station and a prominent landmark visible from the main stand at Cappielow.

Turnstiles were open by the time I walked up Sinclair Street from the Norseman. The first set allowed access behind the near goal and ‘Cow Shed’ down the side (photo right) with the ones closest to the railway bridge being for just the main stand. Price £15 for adults regardless of seat or terrace. The far end, known as the ‘Wee Dublin end’ with its open bench seating was closed. I picked up a badge from the mobile shop on Sinclair Street and a programme and 50/50 ticket through the turnstile. Once in my seat, I could fully appreciate why someone texted me to say the Cappielow Park was a ‘fantastic ground’.

I did read that Morton purchased a stand and two floodlights from St Mirren’s old Love Street ground. The lights have been erected on either end of the ‘Cow Shed’ while, at some point, the stand will be installed at the ‘Wee Dublin’ end.

Greenock Morton (39 points from 20 games) are having a fantastic season and went into this afternoon’s game top of the table, three points clear of second-placed Dunfermline. Livingston (27 points from 17 games) occupied fourth position with games in hand on each of the three teams above them.

Ton’s local rivals are St Mirren and there was a noticeable cheer when the result of their lunchtime kick-off was announced… St Mirren 1 Ross County 4.

Sometime took me a bit by surprise just before kick-off and reminded me of the Rugby league Super League. Match officials and players ran on to the field and within a flash, Livingston (in yellow and black) got the game underway attacking the Wee Dublin end in the first half.

Morton took the lead in the 15th minute. From David Graham’s left-wing corner Craig Reid’s shot was only parried by Livingston goalkeeper Andrew McNeil and Martin Hardie tapped home the loose ball from barely a yard out.

The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession, causing the Morton fans sat near me to feel nervous, and they almost equalised when a rising shot from Anthony Andrew was tipped over the bar by Derek Gaston. The goalkeeper was beat away another well-struck shot from Iain Russell. Just before the break, Marc McNulty was inches away from guiding a low angled shot into the far right corner of the net.

Once again, I have to report another agonising near miss with a ‘raffle’. My ticket of 177029 in the 50/50 draw was just 37 away from the winning ticket of 177066 which scooped a nice prize of just under £350.

“Only yourselves to blame, Morton,” was the consensus in my part of the main stand when Livingston levelled things up eight minutes after the restart. Russell was allowed to pick his spot and nestled a low left-foot shot into the bottom right corner from 22 yards out past the diving Gaston.

Morton had moved to the top of the table with one defeat in their last nine league games, so recovered from conceding the equaliser by scoring what proved to be the winner in the 68th minute. Michael Tidser delivered a free-kick deep the far right-hand post where Peter MacDonald headed home.

The win extended Morton’s lead at the top as Dunfermline’s game as Cowdenbeath was postponed. Partick moved above the Pars into second place with a 4-1 home win over Falkirk. Top-flight football may well return to Cappielow Park for the first time since 1988 if Allan Moore’s side can maintain their winning form until the end of the season.

After the full-time whistle, I retraced my steps back to Cartsdyke station and caught the 17:19 train back to Glasgow Central.

Cappielow Park certainly lived up to my expectations and is undoubtedly a ‘must-visit’ ground.

1-0 Martin Hardie (15)
1-1 Iain Russell (53)
2-1 Peter MacDonald (68)

Morton: Fouad Bachirou (29), David Graham (60), Scott Taggart (90)
Livingston: Liam Fox (62), Kevin McCann (85)