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Morton Jonathan Mitchell

Candidates for favourite Morton memories are a bit thin on the ground for someone of my age. At 29, successes have been few and far between in my time following the club’s fortunes.

There have been two Second Division wins, in 1994-95 and 2006-07, and the hugely significant Third Division triumph in 2002-03. And I suspect many fans would choose that 1-0 victory over Peterhead on the final day of the season as their top moment.

However, my own choice is, rather strangely, one that ended in crushing disappointment – the 2-2 draw with Dundee United in the last league game of the 1995-96 season.

I was 14 at the time and had only really taken a passing interest in Morton up until then, but I was hooked after watching Marko Rajamaki and Alan Mahood score in a 2-1 win over Airdrie at Cappielow in November 1995, in what was Derek McInnes’ last home game for the club.

It was hugely exciting to see my local team build towards such an important game, one in which they could still secure the First Division title, depending on league-leaders Dunfermline’s result against Airdrie, or a play-off place.

On the day, I remember travelling to Cappielow on a bus from Kilblain Street and feeling like I was heading to the centre of the universe.

There was nowhere in the world I would have rather been that afternoon. But when I arrived at Cappielow just after two o’clock with my mum, Fiona, and two of my brothers, Gary and Brett, the queues for the Cowshed seemed to be stretching for miles – and the stadium was already jam-packed inside.

There appeared to be little hope of getting in. However, just as I was beginning to panic, a huge ray of light appeared at the end of the tunnel. Well, the Sinclair Street railway bridge to be precise, as the main stand’s child gate didn’t even have a queue. Not one person!

I still feel guilty to this day about the way I was able to stroll straight into the ground, buy a programme and take a seat at the back of the main stand, while my mum, brother Brett, season ticket holders who had hardly missed a game all season, Janne Lindberg’s wife, and a club legend like Jim Holmes amongst many others were all locked out.

So I was one of the lucky 12,523 in attendance - although I’ll always remain convinced there were many more people in ground that day - as Allan McGraw’s side, resplendent in their Argentina-style jerseys, faced a star-studded Tangerines squad including Ally Maxwell, Craig Brewster, Owen Coyle, Christian Dailly, Steven Pressley, Andy McLaren, Maurice Malpas and Robbie Winters.

Strangely enough, I can remember little about the actual action on the pitch besides United twice taking the lead and Morton coming back to level through a Brewster own goal early in the second half and then a low Rajamaki strike with 10 minutes or so left.

I’ve still to hear a roar at Cappielow like the one that almost blew the roof off the Cowshed when the flying Finn netted his late equaliser.

In the end, there would be no further scoring and United would hold on to second spot in the First Division before eventually winning a place in the Premier Division following a two-legged play-off victory over Partick Thistle.

Despite the result providing such a cruel end to a fantastic season, I actually left the stadium on a real high.

For me, the occasion would come to mean so much more than promotion, and, if anything, the glorious failure actually served to romanticise the match, ensuring that it would remain a day which I regularly look back to with nostalgic regret as I wistfully wonder what might have been.

Jonathan Mitchell covers Morton matches for the Greenock Telegraph

 

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