Oliver (24), Quitongo (84) – Clark (30)
Teenage strike sensation Jai Quitongo struck with six minutes remaining to fire Morton to a deserved 2-1 win over Dunfermline Athletic and their first three points of the season at Cappielow this afternoon.
The Ton were without a victory in their opening five Ladbrokes Championship fixtures and looked to be heading for a fourth draw after Nicky Clark had cancelled out Gary Oliver’s opener.
But 19-year-old hitman Quitongo rattled a fierce shot in off the bar in the 84th minute to send the supporters into raptures and end the wait for that first league triumph of the campaign.
The outcome was a particular relief due to the fact it ended a run of three consecutive defeats in all competitions, the most recent of which was a 2-1 reverse at the second tier’s then bottom side Ayr United.
Manager Jim Duffy made three personnel changes to the team that lost at Somerset Park, although two of those were enforced due to left-back Mark Russell’s suspension and an injury to Ricki Lamie.
New signing Gavin Gunning was handed his debut in place of Lamie – and would have a solid 90 minutes at the heart of the defence – while Jamie McDonagh came in for Russell and started at right-back with Michael Doyle switching sides to fill the vacant left-back berth.
Elsewhere Aidan Nesbitt was restored to the starting line-up in place of fellow Celtic loanee Jamie Lindsay and started on the right flank for the first time while Kudus Oyenuga was deployed on the left.
Skipper Lee Kilday had been struggling since last Saturday but made the starting line-up only to suffer a totally unrelated injury after just 20 minutes of today’s game.
It was a twisted ankle sustained at a corner that eventually forced him off to be replaced by Lindsay, with Thomas O’Ware dropping back into defence, and to later leave the stadium on crutches.
After seeing an early chance superbly saved by ex-Ton goalkeeper David Hutton, forward Oliver opened the scoring on 24 minutes when he collected an O’Ware pass and weaved his way forward before sending a measured, angled finish inside the left-hand upright.
However, the lead would last just six minutes and was surrendered in somewhat controversial circumstances on the half hour. Not only did Nesbitt appear to be fouled in the build-up, there was also a hint of offside as Clark ghosted in behind the home defence to divert Callum Fordyce’s hopeful shot past Andy McNeil.
Oliver continued to offer a goal threat for the hosts, firing a left-footed shot at Hutton just before the break and just failing to find the target with a cute angled finish that slipped agonisingly wide three minutes after the restart.
Pars sub Joe Cardle then forced a fine save from McNeil with a powerful hooked volley from a tight angle before the already frenetic, end to end action saw a raft of bookings and controversial incidents.
Quitongo was at the centre of two of them, seeing a strong penalty claim waved away by whistler Kevin Clancy after he was felled by a Richards-Everton challenge inside the box before picking up a caution for a committed challenge on Hutton as he attempted to get to the ball before the Pars keeper.
The forward is enthusiasm and positivity personified, though, and refused to allow the set-backs to affect him as he strived to score the goal that would secure a precious three points for his side.
And it arrived in spectacular fashion six minutes from time when Quitongo controlled impressive substitute Scott Tiffoney’s low cross, swivelled on a sixpence and unleashed an unstoppable shot from 10 yards.
The ball was struck with such venom that it crashed off the underside of the crossbar down off the turf and back up into the roof of the net, and the celebration was no less spectacular, the teenager performing the now familiar – the goal was his fourth of the campaign – acrobatic somersault.
When the final whistle sounded six minutes later everyone of a Ton persuasion was performing figurative cartwheels of their own as Jim Duffy’s men got the monkey off their back by collecting maximum points for the first time this term.
18. McDonagh 2. Kilday (c) 5. Gunning 6. Doyle
11. Nesbitt 4. O’Ware 8. Forbes 9. Oyenuga
7. Oliver 24. Quitongo
Subs used: Lindsay (for Kilday, 27), Tiffoney (for Nesbitt, 73), and Orr (for Oliver, 90).
Subs not used: Scullion, McAleer, Strapp, McGowan (gk).
Booked: McDonagh (61), Quitongo (71).
Dunfermline (442): Hutton; Fordyce, Ashcroft, Richards-Everton, Martin; Paton (Higginbotham, 66), McCabe, Geggan, McMullan (Cardle, 54); Clark, Reilly (El Alagui, 78).
Subs not used: Williamson, Herron, Moffat, Murdoch (gk).
Booked: Martin (59), Clark (61), Cardle (65), Richards-Everton (88).
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Image main: Gary Bradley
Images inset: David Bell