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Full back Sean McIntosh reckons nothing beats football when it comes to fitness.

Stranraer kicked off their 2023/24 campaign with a 5-1 defeat at the hands of top flight Ross County on Saturday.

The scoreline flattered the Staggies slightly but McIntosh felt there were positives to take as the Blues get ready for a first full season under Scott Agnew.

McIntosh works as a personal trainer outside of football but admitted pre-season training was still tough.

He said: “For me, pre-season has been really tough but it has been really good.

“I think we have had maybe five or six really tough sessions and you could see against Ross County we did not really look out of place in terms of fitness.

“Obviously, they are full time so naturally they are going to finish a little bit stronger.

“There were maybe spells where you could see that but I think overall you could see we looked really, really good and the boys are fit.

“You can do as much running as you want in the off season, which most of the boys did, but some of the runs in football you cannot really prepare for them.

“You can be as fit as you want in pre-season but it is maybe a bit of a reality check when you get a game and realise it is a wee bit different.

“Once we get a few more games under our belts, get match sharpness up, then we will be flying I have no doubt about it.”

A Simon Murray hat-trick, along with a Jack Baldwin header and an unfortunate own goal from Craig Ross got Ross County off to the perfect start.

Experienced frontman Simon Murray grabbed three goals on Saturday

Despite the defeat, McIntosh felt there were positives to take from the showing.

He said: “I think the final score flattered them a little bit.

“We said in the changing room that it was never a 5-1 game.

“It is frustrating as well because for spells in the game we were definitely in it, especially when it went 3-1.

“I thought ‘here we go, we’ve got a chance’ but some of the goals we lost were just mistakes and you get penalised against a Premiership team.”

The right back has clocked up more than 50 appearances for Stranraer since joining from Brechin City.

Only two of those appearances have come from the bench as he has become a firm fixture under both Jamie Hamill and Agnew.

However, he was missing from the pre-season contest with Ayr United – and it was nothing to do with injury, illness or suspension.

He said: “Everything is absolutely fine!

“I had my best mate’s wedding and had best man duties.

“It was something I could not really miss but everything is absolutely fine and that is the only reason I missed it.

“I told the gaffer months in advance and I was a wee bit concerned at the time because I did not know how the fixtures would work out.

“Luckily, it was a pre-season game and the gaffer was brilliant with it.

“The wedding went brilliantly and my speech was impeccable!”

Last meeting

Now playing for Welsh side TNS, Declan McManus powered Morton to the win in a crucial contest back in 2015

Stranraer were awarded three points for the last scheduled meeting between the two sides.

That game did not kick off as it was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the last meeting that actually kicked off was pretty much a League One title decider in April 2015. The two sides were battling it out for the league title and it was Cappielow outfit who took all three points – and eventually the title – thanks to a Declan McManus double.

Stranraer: Mitchell, Robertson, Longridge, Rumsby, McKeown, Bell, Gibson, Gallagher (Aitken 32), Winter (Stirling 63), Malcolm (Stoney 68), Longworth.
Not used: Russell, McShane and Tobin.

Greenock Morton: Gaston, Kilday, O’Ware, Crighton, Lamie, Russell, S McCluskey, Forbes, McManus, Miller (McKee 62), MacDonald (Caldwell 89).
Not used: J McCluskey, Scullion, Ferris and Adam.

Last five meetings

  • Stranraer 3 Greenock Morton 0 (Game awarded due to Covid-19 pandemic)
  • Stranraer 0 Greenock Morton 2 (McManus x2 (Pen x1)) at Stair Park on April 25, 2015
  • Greenock Morton 2 Stranraer 0 (McManus and Russell) at Cappielow Park on February 21, 2015
  • Stranraer 2 Greenock Morton 0 (Malcolm x2) at Stair Park on December 6, 2014
  • Greenock Morton 4 Stranraer 0 (McManus x2 (Pen x1), McCluskey and Pepper) at Cappielow Park on August 16, 2014

Ins and outs

Stranraer

Former Morton youngster Thomas Orr has rejoined the Blues

Ins: Martin McDonald (Hurlford United), Cammy Williamson (Annan Athletic), Ben Hughes (East Kilbride), James Dolan (Ayr United), Kyle Fleming (Albion Rovers), Tom Orr (Stenhousemuir) and Ben Armour (Forfar Athletic).

Outs: Luke Scullion (Broomhill), Anton Brady (St Cadoc’s), Craig Malcolm (St Cadoc’s), James Hilton (Dumbarton), Luke Watt and Ikechi Eze.

Greenock Morton

Steven Boyd arrived at Cappielow from Inverness in the transfer window

Ins: Jack Bearne (Liverpool), Steven Boyd (Inverness Caledonian Thistle), Kirk Broadfoot (Open Goal Broomhill), Ryan Mullen (Clyde) and Calum Watters (Kilmarnock).

Outs: Liam Grimshaw (Dundee United), Reece Lyon (Kelty Hearts), Calvin Miller (Falkirk), Efe Ambrose, Lawton Green and Lewis Strapp.

Last time out

Stranraer faced a tough start to their Viaplay Cup group stage against Ross County

Stranraer v Ross County: McDonald, Robertson, Ross, McIntosh, Gallagher, Forrest, Fleming, Grant (Hughes 86), Armour, Orr (Dolan 64), Walker (Hawkshaw 33).
Not used: O’Connor.

Greenock Morton v Kelty Hearts: Mullen, O’Connor, Baird, Waters, Broadfoot, Boyd (Bearne 77), Blues (King 89), Crawford, Gillespie (McGrattan 54), Muirhead, Oakley (Quitongo 53).
Not used: Garrity.

Five facts

John Maisano played for both clubs – and appeared on a hit TV show

1. It is more than a decade since a game involving both Stranraer and Greenock Morton featured both teams finding the net. Officially, there have been six contests in that time. In July 2010, Stranraer and Morton both found the net with the visitors to Stair Park winning 7-1. Stewart Kean, Graeme Holmes, Carlo Monti, Kevin Kelbie and a certain Peter Weatherson all found the net for the visitors while Stuart McColm scored for the hosts.

2. You need to go back two decades for Stranraer’s last win at Cappielow Park. On that occasion, a double from Ian Harty gave Stranraer a 2-0 win. Featuring for Morton that day were David MacGregor, John Maisano, David McGurn and Paul Gaughan, who can also list Stranraer among the teams they played for. The Stranraer team that day was: Hillcoat, Wingate, Wright, Hodge, Kevin Gaughan, Jenkins, Aitken, Marshall (Crawford 76), Finlayson (Sharp 82), Harty, Kerr (Lurinsky 70). Not used: Curran and McCulloch.

3. Both of Stranraer’s main strikers – Ben Armour and Tom Orr – previously played for Greenock Morton.

4. Stranraer’s assistant manager Peter Weatherson is very familiar with tomorrow’s hosts. He played more than 400 games for the club and found the net on more than 120 occasions.

5. Former Stranraer and Greenock Morton midfielder John Maisano – along with wife Leanne – appeared on the Sky One version of Gladiators.