Tidser (7) – Miller (13), Waghorn (61)
Morton exited the William Hill Scottish Cup despite an admirable effort after managerless Rangers came back from behind to triumph 2-1 in yesterday’s fifth round tie at Ibrox in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Midfielder Michael Tidser gave the visitors a shock early lead when he crashed a sublime volley into the net from 22 yards.
But Kenny Miller responded within minutes to level things up before Martyn Waghorn forced the ball over the line to book the Gers place in the hat for the quarter-final draw.
Manager Jim Duffy was forced to go with a makeshift team for the trip to Govan, particularly in terms of his attacking options, or lack thereof.
With Gary Oliver recently injured, Kudus Oyenuga on the road to recovery but still a bit away from a start, Jai Quitongo a long-term absentee and Lawrence Shankland cup-tied, the Ton boss had limited options.
He elected to go with front pairing of Tidser operating just off Celtic loanee Aidan Nesbitt, in a roving free role in which his job was to provide legs and pester the Rangers defenders.
And the combination came up trumps with just seven minutes on the clock as they stunned an Ibrox crowd by working together to fire the Ton in front.
Nesbitt, a pest to the home defence all afternoon, refused to give up on a Ricki Lamie long ball and got his reward when he managed to wrap a leg round a defender and flick the ball high into the air.
The ball dropped right into the path of the supporting Tidser, and without a second thought the 27-year-old stretched to connect with a crisp volley that seared past Wes Foderingham into the bottom-corner.
A home crowd that had seen their club thrown into turmoil on Friday night when conflicting stories emerged regarding the resignation or not of Mark Warburton and David Weir must have been thinking the worst.
But crucially, the lead would last just six minutes, and it was Rangers’ star man this term, veteran striker Miller, who would ride to the rescue once again.
The predatory former Scotland cap followed up to steer the ball through a ruck of bodies after Derek Gaston had done superbly well to beat out Barrie McKay’s angled drive.
Along with Tidser and Nesbitt, Gaston was one of the Greenock men’s top performers on the day, and he did superbly well to tip USA international Emerson Hyndman’s wicked curler onto the crossbar and over.
Despite a spell of controlled Ton possession around the half-hour mark, the Ibrox outfit, bossed by caretaker Graeme Murty, swept towards the visitors’ goal in waves.
Former Morton loan man McKay, who spent the second half of the 2013/14 campaign at Cappielow, scoring three goals in 18 starts, was proving a real menace down the left with his pace and nimble footwork.
On 38 minutes, the eventual sponsors’ man of the match wriggled into the box down the left and, from an incredibly acute angle, squeezed a shot across the face of goal and a whisker wide.
Duffy has seen his side decimated by injury this term, and he was dealt another blow as half-time approached when Michael Doyle was forced off to be replaced by Jamie McDonagh.
The right-back twisted his ankle in the process of making a tackle and left the stadium on crutches, although the problem is not expected to be serious.
Almost as frequent as Ton players dropping like flies has been Ross Forbes posing the opposition untold problems with his set-pieces.
Sunday wasn’t to be his day in this regard, and that was typified when he went for goal from a free-kick in a position that he had so often dropped onto the head of Thomas O’Ware arriving at the far post.
The effort was perhaps an attempt to utilise the expectation he would swing the ball into the box to catch Foderingham out, but the Englishman was alert and shuffled across his line to claim and the half ended level.
Gers midfielder Jason Holt was the first to threaten after the break, poking a shot straight down Gaston’s throat after neat hold-up play from Miller.
The clutch moment in the match from a Morton perspective occurred in the 53rd minute when Nesbitt failed to take advantage of a gilt-edged opportunity.
In only his fourth start for the Ibrox outfit, Swiss defender Philippe Senderos completely misjudged the flight of a clearance and awkwardly headed the ball down to Tidser.
The playmaker immediately fed a precise angled pass into the path of Nesbitt to put him clear on goal, but with just Foderingham to beat, the winger snatched at the chance and swept wildly over the bar.
Rangers punished the profligacy by taking the lead just after the hour when Waghorn was presented with the simple task of pushing the ball over the line from a yard.
It came at the culmination of a flowing move in which McKay released the marauding Holt with a sublime flick before the midfielder fired in an angled cross that squirmed under Gaston and into the six-yard box.
Gers chances came thick and fast thereafter, with Senderos glancing a header wide from a McKay corner, while Gaston produced fine reflex stops to thwart Waghorn, McKay and Lee Wallace.
But Morton really started to assert themselves as an attacking force in the final 20 minutes and might well have grabbed a replay had they taken one of a number of chances.
Nesbitt, Jamie Lindsay, Forbes and O’Ware all peppered the home goal with shots as Duffy’s men desperately sought the goal required to take the tie back to Cappielow.
The best chance, though, broke to substitute Luke Donnelly in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, but the Celtic loanee scooped over the top with the Rangers defence in disarray.
Although the Cappielow club ultimately exited the cup, a 2-1 loss away at Ibrox is far from a disgrace and the players deserve a great deal of credit for a bold and bright display that could well have earned them a replay.
The impressive and noisy travelling support of over 1,500 made their feelings clear at full-time, treating their team to a standing ovation in appreciation of their considerable efforts.
6. Doyle 2. Kilday (c) 4. O’Ware 3. Lamie
8. Forbes 10. Lindsay 21. Murdoch 17. Russell
Subs used: 18. McDonagh (for Doyle, 39), and 19. Donnelly (for Lamie, 71).
Subs not used: 9. Oyenuga, 14. Scullion, 37. Tiffoney, 39. Strapp, 30. McGowan (gk).
Booked: Lamie (4).
Rangers (433): Foderingham; Tavernier, Senderos, Hill, Wallace (Hodson, 83); Hyndman (Toral, 80), Halliday, Holt; Waghorn, Miller, McKay.
Subs not used: Wilson, Garner, Forrester, Alnwick (gk).
Booked: Tavernier (73).
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Attendance: 30,295 (1,559 away fans)
Images: David Bell