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Scottish Cup: Can in-form Greenock Morton stun top-flight Motherwell?

Motherwell v Morton at Fir Park in 2021
On Friday, Motherwell and Greenock Morton will meet for the fifth time in seven seasons

Scottish Cup last 16: Greenock Morton v Motherwell

Venue: Cappielow, Greenock Date: Friday, 9 February Kick-off: 19:30 GMT

Coverage: Watch on the BBC Scotland channel and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Has it really been a Scottish football season if Greenock Morton and Motherwell haven't met in a domestic cup competition?

The sides have been paired four times in the last six campaigns, with each encounter taking place at Fir Park and the top-flight side winning them all.

But there's an extra bit of spice sprinkled over Friday's meeting, a fifth tie between the clubs in seven years, given it will be played under the lights at a packed Cappielow.

Factor in Morton boss Dougie Imrie's tasty relationship with the visiting support, his side's 12-game unbeaten run and a Motherwell team threatening to turn a corner, all the ingredients are there for a cup cracker in front of the BBC Scotland cameras.

From 'dead & buried to 'a match for anyone'

Morton - one-time Scottish Cup winners in 1922 - have every right to dream, given they come into this tie as one of the form teams in the country.

While automatic promotion is most likely beyond Imrie's men, they are well on their way to booking a play-off spot. They have a four-point cushion in fourth spot and are hunting down Partick Thistle in third.

In duo Robbie Muirhead and George Oakley, they have a pair of strikers who have already scored 24 times between them this season.

November was the last time Imrie's side tasted defeat. Since then, there have been nine wins, three draws and zero losses. They have banged in 26 goals in those 12 games, five of which came in a resounding 5-0 win at Dunfermline last weekend.

While captain of Lanarkshire rivals Hamilton, Imrie had a knack of rising himself against Motherwell. From the dugout, he will hope to have the same influence.

"We were dead and buried at the start of December," Imrie tells BBC Scotland.

"We had a lot of injuries the early part of the season, it wasn't looking good for us. But we knew when we got our full quota of players back we'd be a match for anyone and you're certainly seeing that at the moment.

"At home we're a match for anyone. Cappielow's a fortress for us, we've shown that last season, we're starting to get back to that this season.

"The last game at Fir Park we were gutted, we lost to a 120th-minute wonder goal from Liam Donnelly. So, not revenge, but we want to put on a showcase for ourselves."

In-form forward Oakley agrees, adding: "I don't think many teams like coming down to Cappielow. We're looking forward to having that home advantage and seeing if Motherwell can actually handle it down there."

Current Morton boss Dougie Imrie relished battles with Motherwell as a Hamilton player
Current Morton boss Dougie Imrie relished battles with Motherwell as a Hamilton player

Kettlewell braced for 'proper cup tie'

Motherwell will remember their last trip to Cappielow for all the wrong reasons. In 2015, an extra-time defeat to Morton in the League Cup spelled the end of Ian Baraclough's reign as manager.

Unlike Baraclough, current boss Stuart Kettlewell looks to have cooled the heat that was intensifying on his position. A recent run of form has stuttered into a half-decent spell, which has stretched the gap between the Lanarkshire side and the bottom two.

Just like Morton, Motherwell's last outing was a 5-0 success, against Ross County. After a 15-game winless run, their mini revival has been spearheaded by Theo Bair and Blair Spittal, who have scored 11 of the team's last 15 goals.

If Kettlewell's side have any hopes of progressing and achieving their dream of ending the club's 33-year wait for a trophy, they will need that attacking duo to maintain that form.

The last time the Lanarkshire club lifted silverware was in this very competition in 1991. Who did they beat on the way? Morton. Where? Cappielow.

Sizing up Friday's game, Kettlewell said: "It's about as difficult a tie as you are going to get because the expectation quite clearly goes on to Motherwell being the Premiership side, but you are coming up against a really well-organised team.

"I think there's a perception with Morton that it's up-and-at-you and they just batter the ball forward and play for second balls and people talk about it being that industrial, robust type of football.

"I have spent a wee bit of time watching them and I don't think they get the credit for some of the football they play.

"We are going to have to be at our absolute best to advance because if we come off it in any way, I certainly don't see them giving us a bye. So it becomes a proper cup tie."