Andreu (64, 90) – Dillon O.G. (90+4)
Morton and Dundee United experienced a role reversal at Tannadice today as Ray McKinnon’s men recorded a 2-1 victory just four days after being on the receiving end of the same scoreline in the Betfred Cup quarter-final at Cappielow.
On loan Norwich City ace Tony Andreu missed out through injury in midweek and he made the difference in the City of Discovery this afternoon when he set the Tangerines on course for three points with a second-half brace.
Substitute defender Sean Dillon turned home a Ross Forbes free-kick in the fourth minute of stoppage time to give Ton a sliver of hope, but there was no real time left for them to rescue the point they will have felt was the least they deserved for their efforts on the day.
While Jim Duffy made just one enforced tweak to the team that secured a semi-final spot in Greenock, replacing the injured Kudus Oyenuga with Aidan Nesbitt, McKinnon made three changes and a formation switch in response to the loss.
Out went Stewart Murdoch, Scott Fraser and Tope Obadeyi and in came Mark Durnan, Andreu, and Simon Murray as they reconfigured their 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 system.
It was £1million man Andreu who was first to threaten when Cammy Smith slipped him in on goal with a clever reverse pass, but Andy McNeil was alert to the danger and burst off his line to make a smart block.
Thereafter, Morton were the more assertive attacking force with Jai Quitongo worrying man mountain William Edjenguele with his pace and power as the visitors looked to get United turning by putting balls into the channels for the teenage forward to chase down.
A prolonged spell of Ton pressure saw them come within a whisker of opening the scoring twice in the same incident. Had their luck been in and the ball ended up in the net, the final outcome of the encounter would likely have been very different.
But, as it was, Nesbitt’s placed shot from the edge of the box beat Cammy Bell only to kiss the inside of the right-hand post before breaking out into the path of Thomas O’Ware.
The defender, who wore the captain’s armband in Lee Kilday’s continued absence, looked set to turn home but saw his finish deflected over the bar by a desperate-yet-vital last-ditch intervention by a United defender, and slumped to his knees in disbelief.
It had been a frustrating half for the hosts, typified by Blair Spittal lashing a shot high over the crossbar shortly before he and his team-mates were treated to a smattering of boos as they trudged off at half-time.
The Sinclair Street side made a bright start to the second half and carved out a couple of quick-fire half chances, one of which came after Nesbitt and then Mark Russell produced consecutive nutmegs before the left-back delivered a teasing cross that was cleared just before Quitongo could pounce.
Dundee United offered an immediate response and only a fantastic one-handed save by Ton keeper McNeil prevented Spittal’s powerful volley from an acute angle from nestling in the far corner of the net.
It took another 10 minutes before they threatened again, a Mark Durnan header from a Spittal free-kick looping over McNeil and landing on the roof of the net, and McKinnon decided to make a change bringing on Obadeyi in place of Spittal.
Within two minutes of entering the fray, Englishman Obadeyi had made a vital contribution when he collected a deep cross beyond the far post and stood up a teasing centre.
The ball dropped right at the feet of former Hamilton Accies midfielder Andreu and he took a touch before lashing a fierce left-footed drive into the net with such power that McNeil couldn’t keep the ball out despite getting a hand to the ball.
A raft of bookings followed in the next 25 minutes – Russell, Jamie McDonagh, O’Ware, Quitongo and Edjenguele were all shown yellows cards – while the Ton saw some perplexing decisions go against them when sub Scott Tiffoney and Quitongo went down under challenges.
To the annoyance of their own fans, Dundee United began to take corners short and protect the ball in the corner while keeper Bell needlessly dropped to the turf after claiming corner as they attempted to see the game out.
By contrast, Cappielow gaffer Duffy gambled in order to try and salvage a draw by sending O’Ware up top in an attempt to provide an aerial target and ruffle a few home feathers.
But the result was put beyond doubt in the last minute of regulation time when a Murray header crept through a gap in the Ton rearguard left as they pushed at the opposite end and Andreu seized upon the opening by placing a cool finish around the advancing McNeil and inside the right-hand post.
There was still enough time for Morton to pull one back, though, when Irishman Dillon sliced through his own goal after Ross Forbes had delivered a dangerous inswinging free-kick from wide on the right.
However, it was just a little too late to salvage a draw from a match that the visitors will have been hugely disappointed to have walked away from empty handed after more than matching their opponents over the course of the 90 minutes.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Gunning 17. Russell
18. McDonagh 10. Lindsay 8. Forbes 11. Nesbitt
7. Oliver 24. Quitongo
Subs used: 37. Tiffoney (for Russell, 76), and 21. Murdoch (for Nesbitt, 90+3).
Subs not used: 14. Scullion, 22. Orr, 39. Strapp, 1. Gaston (gk).
Booked: Russell (71), McDonagh (74), O’Ware (75), Quitongo (81).
Dundee United (4141): Bell (c); Van der Struijk, Durnan, Edjenguele, Dixon; Toshney; Spittal (Obadeyi, 62), C. Smith (Fraser, 76), Andreu, Van der Velden (Dillon, 85), Murray.
Subs not used: Donaldson, Robson, B. Smith, Zwick (gk),
Booked: Durnan (43), Edjenguele (81).
Referee: Barry Cook
Attendance: 5,829 (237 away fans)
Images: David Bell