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Shiels stands out from crowd

KENNY SHIELS is not a man known for keeping his opinions to himself.

His career as manager of Kilmarnock was littered with outbursts on various topics, which more often than not ended with him being summoned like a naughty school boy to the headmaster's office at Hampden to receive a slap on the wrist or worse. Yet despite a touchline ban - which had been carried forward from his time at Rugby Park - hampering his ability to be hands-on in his first match in charge of Morton on Saturday, the vocal Shiels still managed to get his message across loud, if not clear.

The Northern Irishman had barely parked himself in the Cappielow directors' box when he was up out of his chair barking orders at his players. "Do what you're told and get on with it!" was one cry which caught the attention of startled supporters watching and listening in amazement, while instructions such as "Nico, give them the ball now!" to goalkeeper Nicolas Caraux and "talk to him, pass on instructions!" also drowned out the voices of anyone in the technical area. However, there was one poor sod who was the object of Shiels' attention more than most - 20-year-old striker Reece Hands. "Reece, close him down", cried Shiels. "Reece, chase the ball", "Reece, do what you're told. Reece!"

"You don't want a manager to pat you on the back every week, you need someone to keep you motivated and keep you on your toes," said Hands afterwards, with his manager's words still ringing in his ears. "It's encouraging, but it will be better when he's down in the dug out. He's quite understanding in training, he's not always in your face. It's been a positive week, he's just trying to get some confidence into the boys."

"Understanding" is perhaps not the best way to describe Shiels on Saturday as Morton made him suffer in the stand during a defeat by Falkirk. He was not just a vocal figure but an animated one as he jumped up and down alarmingly, shook his head in disbelief, clapped and cheered in hope, before latterly turning his back in despair. "You never enjoy it, not during the game," said Shiels. "When the game is going on you get totally wrapped up in it, and you need to try and think more logically. You do that on a Saturday night."

For all the constraints put upon him on Saturday, Shiels' early influence on Morton was evident, albeit it would be tested at times. There was a willingness to move the ball quickly - with sporadic spells of neat interplay creating space inside a congested Falkirk half, especially after the visitors had taken a 1-0 lead - yet Shiels' desire for a more complete passing game led to a few unsettling moments in the Morton defence.

The Cappielow manager will have been encouraged that his team were never really carved open by Falkirk, although the manner in which they needlessly gift-wrapped two goals will still be of great concern. The first was a free header for Kieran Duffie - just seconds after Shiels screamed at his players to pick up their men at a corner - and the second from Rory Loy's penalty which followed a needless foul by Tomas Peciar.

While Morton stare at a six-point gap isolating them at the foot of the SPFL Championship, a recent purple patch has Falkirk looking up. Gary Holt's team were efficient on Saturday without ever looking like finding top gear, but they would stifle any creativity from Morton pair Fouad Bachirou and Dougie Imrie effectively to help secure their fourth win in five league matches.

That has left Falkirk just three points off second place with a game in hand, and Duffie is sure there is more to come from his team. "It's a great three points as we didn't play at our best," said the defender. "As a team we defended really well and put them under pressure. It's a great confidence boost but we need to keep our winning run going."

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