Moffat (12, 23) – Nesbitt (43)
Morton’s six-game unbeaten run was brought to halt at Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday after a nightmare first half in which almost anything that could go wrong for the visitors did go wrong.
A missed penalty, two poor back-passes that gifted the Pars their goals, and two injuries left Jim Duffy’s men with a mountain to climb.
And although Aidan Nesbitt pulled one back before the break to give their hopes of completing the comeback a real boost, they couldn’t find the goal needed to salvage a share of the spoils from the match and left Fife empty handed.
The afternoon had all started so brightly, with the Ton make a bright start to the encounter and winning a penalty inside the first five minutes when Jai Quitongo was felled by Callum Fordyce after prodding the ball past him on his way into the box.
Thomas O’Ware successfully converted his last spot-kick, in the 5-0 win over Queen of the South in October, but Dunfermline goalkeeper Sean Murdoch guessed right, diving to his right to smother the skipper’s effort from 12 yards.
Murdoch, who would eventually pick up the sponsors’ man of the match award for his display, then produced another smart stop shortly afterwards, making himself big to block from Quitongo after the ball broke to him at the far post.
At the opposite end, Derek Gaston also produced a fine reflex save to deny John Herron on eight minutes, shooting out his right foot to deflect the Blackpool loanee’s angled drive clear.
But there was little the Ton shot-stopper could do to prevent Michael Moffat from opening the scoring on 12 minutes when the striker pounced on Jamie McDonagh’s short headed backpass and poked the ball past the advancing Gaston.
Things went from bad to worse moments later when in-form Celtic loan star Jamie Lindsay was forced off with a nasty ankle injury to be replaced by Michael Tidser.
If it wasn’t already apparent it wasn’t going to be the Sinclair Street side’s day, there could be no doubt when they presented the Pars with their second goal of the afternoon.
It was in the 23rd minute that left-back Mark Russell attempted to pass the ball back to his goalkeeper but sclaffed his right-footed connection and gifted Dunfermline another glaring one-on-one chance.
In what was his 100th appearance for the East End Park outfit, Moffat fastened onto the loose ball and coolly placed an angled finish between Gaston’s legs to clinically punish the error.
And only another great Gaston save with his feet denied the centurion a hat-trick on the half hour when he redirected a Kallum Higginbotham free-kick towards goal with a powerful downwards header.
In between times, Lindsay replacement Tidser tested Murdoch with a piledriver from the edge of the box following an intelligent reverse pass from Forbes to tee him up.
The visitors began to up the ante in the final quarter of an hour, but they were dealt another major blow on 32 minutes as they attempted to find a way back into the game.
In chasing down a slack Dunfermline backpass, Quitongo collided with goalkeeper Murdoch, injuring his left knee during the impact as well as flipping over and landing awkwardly.
The teenage striker was left punching the turf in agony and became the second Ton player of the afternoon to be forced off prematurely, and later hobbled out of the stadium on crutches.
This is a resilient Ton team, though, and they did not let the plethora of set-backs affect their mindset, and they earned a lifeline right at the end of the first half.
It was McDonagh who was the architect, proving he had put his mistake behind him by swapping passes with Forbes in a neat exchange before slaloming into the box and letting fly with a shot that was blocked but broke back to Nesbitt to sweep into the net.
The goal was the wideman’s first for the club, and he almost doubled his tally 20 seconds into the second half when he danced along the left touchline past Conner Duthie and curled a placed shot towards goal only to see Jason Talbot hack off the line.
Morton dominated the second half and played some slick passing football in significant spells, but without carving out much in the way of clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.
The best opening was conjured up by Gary Oliver, with an incisive through ball for Kudus Oyenuga, who got there just before Murdoch but saw his stabbed shot blocked by the home custodian.
However, that was the closest the Ton would come to levelling things up as a full recovery from the first 45 minutes proved a bridge too far.
18. McDonagh 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Gunning 17. Russell
8. Forbes 21. Murdoch 10. Lindsay 11. Nesbitt
24. Quitongo 7. Oliver
Subs used: 12. Tidser (for Lindsay, 13), 9. Oyenuga (for Quitongo, 36), and 16. McAleer (for Murdoch, 76).
Subs not used: 2. Kilday, 3. Lamie, 6. Doyle, 20. McNeil (gk).
Booked: Gunning (31), Tidser (60), McDonagh (75).
Dunfermline (442): Murdoch; Duthie (Williamson, 58), Fordyce (c), Ashcroft, Talbot; Higginbotham, McCabe, Herron (Wedderburn, 46), McMullan; Moffat, Clark (El Alagui, 84).
Subs not used: Paton, Cardle, Reilly, Hutton (gk).
Booked: Herron (30), Higginbotham (65), Wedderburn (73), Moffat (90+1).
Referee: Stephen Finnie
Images: David Bell