Ten-man Morton will consider themselves unfortunate not to have come away with maximum points after a valiant effort saw them record a scoreless draw with Ayr United last night.
Although they played out the final hour of the match a man down following teenage defender John Mitchell’s straight red card, Andy Millen’s side controlled large spells of the game and also missed a second-half penalty.
And so despite picking up a creditable point away at the side sat third in the Development League West table, Andy Millen’s league leaders still left Cumnock Juniors’ Townhead Park slightly disappointed with the stalemate.
There had been little in the way of notable action when centre-half Mitchell threw himself into a challenge just inside the opposition half.
The tackle was high and reckless, and referee Lloyd Wilson decided the 18-year-old had used excessive force and flashed a red card.
Ton had started with Michael Tidser and Conor Pepper as their central midfield pairing, but the dismissal required a rejig in which Pepper went to right-back and Ruaridh Langan moved in one to central defence, while Jack Purdue dropped into midfield.
The game might have taken a difference course had striker Sean McKenzie managed to score after controlling a David Waitte pass and attempting a lob, but Jamie McGowan stretched every sinew to reach up and prevent the ball floating over him.
Thereafter, the 10 men retook control of proceedings in spite of their numerical disadvantage, and Tidser came within inches of breaking the deadlock after his fierce shot was deflected over the bar following a trademark Ton short-corner routine.
And they passed up a glorious chance to edge in front when, on 51 minutes, Caolan McAleer went down under a Colin Granger challenge after beating the defender to Lewis Strapp’s slide-rule pass and whistle Wilson pointed to the spot.
Senior pro Tidser considered taking the spot-kick but took a backseat to allow one of the Under-20s the experience of hitting a pressure penalty as an important part of their learning process.
Alex McWaters converted from 12 yards in last week’s 3-0 win over Airdrie, and he went low to the right again. But Ayr goalkeeper Lyle Avci read his intent and dived low to his left to parry.
At the other end, the Ton teens stood up well to periods of Honest Men pressure in the second half, with John Tennent and Lewis Strapp making several important defensive contributions to protect McGowan’s goal.
Left-back Strapp was still proving a threat going forward, too, and fizzed a fantastic low centre across the face of goal on 71 minutes after bursting into the box but finding no takers.
Both sides had brilliant chances to snatch the victory in the final five minutes, with McKenzie slipping a low, angled effort a whisker wide of the left-hand post after a simple pass over the top had caught the visitors out.
Then, in the first minute of stoppage time, Purdue almost repeated the heroics that saw him net an injury-time winner away at Airdrie in September.
On that occasion, he demonstrated tremendous technique to lash a left-foot volley into the bottom-right corner on the run after McWaters had picked him out with a diagonal pass.
This time a McWaters cross was headed out as far as Purdue on the edge of the area, and keeping his eye on the ball as it dropped, the midfielder caught the ball sweetly before it bounced, narrowly failed to hit the target and grab the win.
8. Langan (c) 5. Mitchell 4. Tennent 3. Strapp
11. McAleer 2. Pepper 6. Tidser 7. McWaters
10. Armour 9. Purdue
Subs used: 16. Anderson (for Tidser, 64), 17. Hynes (for Pepper, 73), and 14. Docherty (for Armour, 79).
Subs not used: 12. Duffy, 15. Eardley, 18. Miller, 20. Connor (gk).
Booked: McAleer (59).
Sent off: Mitchell (21).
Referee: Lloyd Wilson
Image: Gary Bradley