November 17, 2023
Greenock Morton vs Airdrieonians
Cammy Ballantyne says an SPFL Trust Trophy semi-final is an exciting incentive for Airdrie, but the defender insists that Morton will be a tough nut to crack.
The Diamonds head to Cappielow - for the third time this season - on Saturday for a quarter-final tie against the Ton, with a semi-final tie at either Hamilton or Raith Rovers awaiting the winners.
Airdrie were in Greenock for their fourth-round tie just a week and a half ago, beating Rangers B 4-2 to set up Saturday’s last-eight fixture.
Rhys McCabe’s men hope to make it three wins in a row after following that win with a 2-0 cinch Championship victory over Arbroath last Saturday.
Ballantyne, named in the SPFL Team of the Week for his performance, was pleased with the win.
“It was good, I felt as if we were in control of the full game. Especially the first half, I felt as if we could maybe have made better decisions in the final third and we could have maybe got three or four out of it.
“Typical of us to try and make it a wee bit more difficult for ourselves at 1-0! As soon as we got the second goal, it was pretty easy from there.”
A tweak to the Diamonds’ shape has coincided with a return to form after a disappointing run of results in October, and Ballantyne is relishing his responsibilities as part of a five-man defence.
“Personally it just means I’m a bit more further forward, sometimes I’m playing as the winger instead of a winger playing in front of me. Defensively it’s pretty much the same, I’m tucking in and letting the other side go, and vice versa.
“It’s mainly just starting on the pitch I’m higher up, that’s the main difference for me.”
The 26-year-old will be looking to play a part at both ends of the park this weekend as the Diamonds look to maintain their 100% record at Cappielow.
Before the tie against Rangers B, the Diamonds enjoyed a 1-0 victory over Dougie Imrie’s side in September, former Ton winger Lewis McGregor netting the only goal of the game.
It was a hard-fought victory that day, and Ballantyne expects more of the same.
“It’s going to be a tough game as always. When you go down to Cappielow, you never get an easy game.
“It’s obviously a cup game, not the league, but you’re still going to get the same Morton - tough, hardworking, can play. They could easily turn over anyone right now, it’s not as if they’re getting beat every week by three or four, they’re in every game.
“It’s just one of those runs that you go through when you can’t seem to get a break. So it’s going to be a really tough game, and it’s a quarter-final - so we need to come with the right attitude and hopefully win the game and get ourselves in the semi-final of a cup.”
For a club once renowned for cup runs, Airdrie have scarcely troubled the latter stages of the domestic knockout competitions in recent years - but in the season that marks the 100th anniversary of the Diamonds’ only Scottish Cup triumph, Cammy is delighted to be in contention as the SPFL Trust Trophy final looms ever closer.
“It’s brilliant. At the level we play at, we’re not going to get the chance to win many cups or get to semi-finals. To be in a quarter-final is great - if you get through you’re in a semi.
“Two wins away from a cup final, which is great for the fans, and it’s great for us.”
Player-manager Rhys McCabe isn’t underestimating the challenge that lies ahead at a tricky venue.
“It’s a good opportunity for the boys to go and put on a good performance and hopefully get another result, but we’re not going to take it lightly - we go down there knowing we’re going to be up against a tough opposition.
“Every time I’ve been there as a player, it’s always been a tough venue regardless of form. Morton have been struggling of late, and I know they’ve had a few injury concerns which isn’t great for Dougie.
“We’re under no illusion, we know we’ve got to go there and make sure we’re up for the fight, and we’ll go and try to put in another solid performance.”
The Diamonds boss has some selection headaches to contend with ahead of the match. As well as the injured Mason Hancock (knee) and Murray Aiken (ankle), the boss is without defenders Kanayo Megwa, who is cup-tied, and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, who is on international duty with Antigua & Barbuda.
Ross Hardie referees his first Airdrie match of the season.
Match tickets are available using the link below. As hosts, Morton have exclusive pay-per-view broadcasting rights for the tie, which is available through their streaming service priced at £6.99. As the match falls outwith the FA’s ‘blocked hours’, the stream is available worldwide.
Supporters attending the match are advised that Airdrie fans will be situated in the Wee Dublin End, and can access the main stand once inside. Small umbrellas will be permitted on uncovered terrace (golf umbrellas are prohibited) but will not be allowed in the stand. The catering van for away fans is cash only, and there will be bucket collections for the British Heart Foundation at the match. Please give generously if you can.
Saturday November 18, 2023
Cappielow Park, Greenock
John McCrossan, Colin Drummond