Match Report: Morton 0-1 Dunfermline

Match Report: Morton 0-1 Dunfermline
by Jonathan Mitchell

Greenock_Morton_FC_logodunfermline-logoMorton 0 – 1 Dunfermline

Wedderburn (15)

Morton saw their long unbeaten home run come to an end on Saturday as Dunfermline Athletic became the first team to pick up three points at Cappielow in just under a calendar year.

Jim Duffy’s men last lost on Sinclair Street on 26 March 2016 when Raith Rovers left Greenock victorious thanks to James Craigen’s second-half strike.

Since then, this talented and popular Ton team had gone 19 matches in all competitions without tasting the bitter sting of defeat on home turf.

However, Nat Wedderburn’s early goal was enough to earn the Pars maximum points on a sun-drenched afternoon at the weekend and stop their hosts just short of reaching the landmark date.

It is difficult to pin-point just went wrong on the day as the Ton came into the fixture in impressive form, having recorded back-to-back 1-0 wins against Queen of the South and away at Falkirk.

Manager Duffy made just one change to the team that bested the Bairns with the returning Michael Doyle restored to the starting line-up and Ricki Lamie dropping out as Lee Kilday reverted from right-back to centre-half.

Skipper Kilday has proven something of a goal threat this term with four goals to his name from defence, but he passed up an inviting early chance when he sent a diving header narrowly over the top after meeting a Ross Forbes corner.

It would be an eventful first half for the defender, who had to change his footwear shortly afterwards leaving Ton temporarily down to 10 men before he was forced off at half-time with an ankle injury to be replaced by Lamie.

Kilday was back on the field, though, when Dunfermline edged in front by scoring what would turn out to be the only goal of the game on 15 minutes.

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Pile on … Goalscorer Nat Wedderburn is mobbed by Pars team-mates                               © David Bell

Midfielder Wedderburn applied the simplest of finishing touches on the line after Nicky Clark squeezed the ball back across the face of goal following a Kallum Higginbotham corner that Derek Gaston failed to hold.

Ton responded by creating a couple of half chances, Andy Murdoch slicing through a volley that veered away from goal, while Lawrence Shankland controlled Mark Russell’s long ball on his chest and dragged a left-footed effort wide.

In a half punctuated by five bookings, the Ton had struggled to find their rhythm and pose any sort of real threat to the visitors’ goal.

They did, however, make a promising start to the second 45, and Doyle and Lamie both caused confusion in the away ranks with crosses into the danger area, the former’s delivery having to be pawed over by Sean Murdoch.

Gaston was then called into action at the opposite end on 55 minutes, propelling his sizeable frame to his left to flip Clark’s whipped shot around the post.

The game was starting to open up a little at this juncture, and Murdoch produced a fine stop as he reached up at full-stretch to fingertip his namesake Andy’s stinging half-volley over the bar.

He really should have been tested again less than 60 seconds later, but Russell side-footed tamely straight at the Pars custodian after Shankland had hooked over his own head and into the danger area deep inside the box.

The Sinclair Street side had been second best midfield battle, with the imposing figure of Wedderburn proving dominant, and Duffy reacted by sending on playmaker in an attempt to take control of the game.

They would enjoy the lion’s share of possession in the final hour, but Dunfermline would hold firm in the main, controlling their top-four opponents for the most part.

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Improvised attempt … Kudus Oyenuga sees his back-header clawed clear by Murdoch                    © David Bell

Ton’s best chances in that period were a Thomas O’Ware header from a Forbes flag-kick that slipped a whisker wide and sub Kudus Oyenuga’s cute back-header that a panicked Murdoch palmed past the same post.

Dunfermline, meanwhile, threatened to add to their lead and had a ‘goal’ chalked off by referee Mat Northcroft, who adjudged Callum Morris to have fouled O’Ware before bulleting Higginbotham’s corner into the net.

Gaston also went some way to redeeming himself with two outstanding saves in the final 15 minutes; the first of which was a smart stop low to his left to keep out sub Rhys McCabe’s daisycutter.

He then bettered that with a sensational one-handed reaction save to prevent Michael Moffat’s angled header from a Jason Talbot cross from finding the net on 84 minutes.

It handed his side a lifeline – but it was one that they did not manage to grab as the game ended without any further scoring and a stunned hush fell over Cappielow as the support came to terms with a very unfamiliar feeling.

But after a short period of silence, applause could be heard from pockets around the stadium as fans showed their appreciation for an unbeaten run that was no less impressive just because it would not stretch to a full year.

 

Morton (442)

1. Gaston
6. Doyle 2. Kilday (c) 4. O’Ware 17. Russell
8. Forbes 21. Murdoch 10. Lindsay 11. Nesbitt
7. Oliver 16. Shankland

Subs used: 3. Lamie (for Kilday, 46), 12. Tidser (for Lindsay, 62), and 9. Oyenuga (for Shankland, 68).

Subs not used: 14. Scullion, 19. Donnelly, 30. McGowan (gk).

Booked: Russell (30), Forbes (42), Oyenuga (81).

Dunfermline (442): Murdoch; Geggan (c), Morris, Ashcroft, Talbot; Higginbotham, Wedderburn, Herron (McCabe, 73), McMullan (Cardle, 90+2); Moffat (Hopkirk, 88), Clark

Subs not used: Williamson, Paton, Reilly, Gill (gk).

Booked: Wedderburn (16), Geggan (25), Herron (36), McMullan (90).

Referee: Mat Northcroft

Attendance: 2,670

Images: David Bell