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Will the fairy tale come true as Shiels casts his spell in a land of make belief?

HIS presence was understated but his influence was not.

Hamilton striker Mickael Antoine-Curier scores what proves to be the winner
Hamilton striker Mickael Antoine-Curier scores what proves to be the winner

Despite being found pre-match loitering in the reception area of New Douglas Park - his touchline ban prohibiting him from being involved with his Morton players in the hour before kick-off - and despite making a less obtrusive contribution from the directors' box than during his first game in charge at Cappielow last week, it was clear Kenny Shiels has already imposed one vital aspect of his character on his new club. Belief.

The Northern Irishman has founded his philosophy on a positive attitude and it seems those connected with Morton have bent to his will during the past fortnight. Players, coaches and fans all seem convinced that Shiels will guide them away from their predicament at the bottom of the SPFL Championship, but such certainty defies reason. After all, this defeat by Hamilton Academical ensured the Greenock club close the first half of the league season with just nine points. To assume blithely that they will gather enough positive results in their remaining 18 matches to close the 12-point deficit currently between them and safety requires remarkable optimism.

Saturday marked a ninth defeat in 10 outings - the stricken Cappielow club having also lost the opening game of Shiels' tenure last weekend - and leaves them six points adrift of Cowdenbeath and the relegation play-off place. Put simply, they need wins and they need them now. On this evidence, they might just manage a few. Morton let themselves down with a moment of defensive doziness and with their failure to make the most of the opportunities that came their way, but they were patient in possession, considered in their approach and have a squad good enough to be much higher in the second tier.

Furthermore, players will be tempted to sign for the club by the chance to work with Shiels. Take Barrie McKay, recruited last week on loan from Rangers. The diminutive playmaker was freed by the Northern Irishman while at Kilmarnock but thinks enough of him to be thrilled by the chance of a reunion. "He knows what he's talking about and wants to play the game the right manner," said the 18-year-old, who has signed for a month. "He trusts his players and he's told me he believes in me and to enjoy myself, and that's good enough for me."

Others will feel the same. Darren Cole's circumstances are different, given his release by Rangers, but the defender made a composed debut at centre-back and could be joined by Garry O'Connor, the former Scotland striker who has been training with the club since Shiels' arrival. A further two or three are also expected to arrive next month, strengthening an enviable pool that appears at least the equal of that managed by Alex Neil at Hamilton. The difference is that the New Douglas Park side are just a couple of points behind Dundee at the top of the division.

That they are still in such a position after three defeats and a draw in the four games leading up to this encounter speaks to the hugely impressive manner in which they started the season and to the way in which Neil has corralled his youngsters to maintain their fine form.

They were perhaps fortunate to take the three points on Saturday but the win was reward for the manager's bold strategy of pressing Morton high up the pitch and then trusting his players to manage the contest when they tired in the latter stages. "They have been questioned in recent weeks and I told them good players go out and prove people wrong, and they did that," explained Neil.

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