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Hamilton Academical 1 Morton 0: Flickering pulse of revival

ONCE the coals of this contest have been raked over, there might just be a spark with which Morton can ignite their season.

Mikael Antoine-Curier heads the home side's winner from a James Keatings crossPhotograph: SNS
Mikael Antoine-Curier heads the home side's winner from a James Keatings crossPhotograph: SNS

Granted, this was a ninth defeat in 10 matches for the Cappielow club but, under the stewardship of Kenny Shiels, there appear to be signs of life in a hitherto moribund outfit.

The Greenock side were composed and committed against Hamilton Academical, with Shiels' signature scrawled all over their considered approach, but their efforts were undermined by one moment of defensive sloppiness and indecision in front of goal.

That they have scored just twice in their last seven matches means the new manager need not look far to identify where his priorities lie.

"It's the story of the past few weeks: one mistake and we're beaten 1-0," said assistant David Hopkin, who roamed the technical area while Shiels completed his touchline ban.

"If we get a goalscorer in you'll see how good a team we can be. We can start to see things working but we just need a win to kickstart our season."

Perhaps the signing of Barrie McKay, albeit only for a month initially, might help address the creativity deficit. The on-loan Rangers midfielder was lively, clever and at the centre of most of the good things Morton did yesterday.

The signing of former Hibernian striker Garry O'Connor, who has been training with the club and is one of "three or four" possible recruits Shiels has lined up for January, might also make a difference to a side six points adrift of second-bottom Cowdenbeath and a further six away from 10th-placed Dumbarton.

To close that gap, Morton need to stop spurning the opportunities they passed up yesterday. Dougie Imrie's fierce lash was punched clear by Blair Currie, a late replacement after Kevin Cuthbert aggravated a groin problem during the warm-up, and the goalkeeper would also deny McKay after the break, pushing a free-kick away and into the path of Jake Nicholson, who was unable to convert the rebound.

The closest Morton came, though, was in the final few moments. First, Aidan Fulton burst down the left and dug out a cross, only for Reece Hands' header to be cleared off the line by Martin Canning, then Fulton speared in another tempting ball, but Nicholson again failed to make a decisive connection. All that encouraging work, though, was spoiled by their defensive failings.

Darren Cole, the former Rangers youngster who has signed for the remainder of the campaign, offered a composed contribution at centre-back, but was part of a unit that struggled to cope with crosses.

Goalkeeper Nicolas Caraux was twice summoned to make saves after lapses, once from a Mikael Antoine-Curier header then from a rasping Darian Mackinnon volley, but there was little the Frenchman could do when Hamilton franked their advantage after 24 minutes. James Keatings found time and space on the left and picked out Antoine-Curier, who planted his header away from the custodian.

Given they had taken just one point from their previous four outings, slipping from the summit of the Championship in the process, the goal would prove a valuable one for Hamilton's promotion prospects.

That Alex Neil's side were unable to manufacture a second meant they would suffer the odd moment of anxiety, but Morton lacked the penetration to earn a tangible reward. "They have been questioned in recent weeks and I told them that good players go out and prove people wrong and they did that," said Neil.

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