A sensational Ross Forbes free-kick saw Morton overcome the odds to achieve a feat they failed to accomplish in four attempts last season by beating bogey team Raith Rovers.
The Greenock men have not had their troubles to seek with injuries this term and went into yesterday’s meeting minus the services of skipper Lee Kilday, Ricki Lamie, Conor Pepper, Michael Tidser, and Kudus Oyenuga.
Yet, despite more hurdles being placed in their path by lady luck as influential defender Gavin Gunning and goalkeeper Andy McNeil were both forced off, a resilient Ton team dug deep to pick up a hard-earned three points at Cappielow.
It was with a full complement that the hosts took the lead after 18 minutes when Jai Quitongo did superbly well to bully a defender off the ball and then win a free-kick in a dangerous position when he was subsequently bundled over.
Forbes stood over the ball 22 yards out, slightly to the right of centre and whipped a sublime set-piece over the wall and inside the right-hand post to break the deadlock.
The playmaker is proving prolific this term, having already netted with fantastic free-kicks against Hamilton Accies and Ayr United as well as forcing Sean Dillon’s own goal with his dead-ball delivery at Dundee United last week.
Right up there with Forbes as one of Ton’s top performers on the day was Gary Oliver, and the frontman forced former Cappielow keeper Kevin Cuthbert to plunge low to his right to scramble the ball wide.
It was a real high intensity first half from Jim Duffy’s men, and left-back Mark Russell opened up the Rovers rearguard with a moment of magic before fizzing in an angled drive that took a deflection before zipping narrowly wide.
Raith arrived in Greenock with two very familiar faces in their ranks in Declan McManus and Bobby Barr, and the pair combined to create their side’s first noteworthy attempt on goal in the 24th minute.
Striker McManus picked up the ball in a deep position, turned and drove at his former team-mates before slipping the ball wide to Barr, and he, in turn, picked out Scott Roberts, whose downwards header was pawed wide by an alert McNeil.
Forbes passed up another chance when he lashed high over the bar after a flowing counter-attack crafted by Russell and Oliver before Jamie McDonagh got on the end of a low centre from the left-back and sent a half-volley spinning wide.
With the Ton well on top and looking like adding to their lead, they were dealt their first blow when, on 37 minutes, centre-half Gunning was left clutching his hamstring as he sprinted to cover across out on the flank.
The Irishman was eventually stretched around the side of the track in obvious agony, while on the opposite side of the park manager Duffy was left with a real problem due to his limited defensive options.
His solution was to move Michael Doyle in to centre-half, pull McDonagh back one to right-back, where he played in the 2-1 win over Dunfermline, and bring on Andy Murdoch to fill the vacant right-midfield berth in what was his home bow.
Morton must have really felt like the world was against them when the officials missed what appeared a clear handball by defender Jean-Yves M’voto, which prevented Quitongo from checking inside him for a shot at goal.
The second half was more of an even contest, and Rovers’ best chances both fell to returning hitman McManus and in a turn up for the books in terms of former players putting Ton to the sword, he failed to take either of them.
On 55 minutes, the Fleetwood Town loanee stooped to meet Liam Smith’s swinging cross but got under the ball and sent his header high over the bar.
Then, in the 69th minute, Barr squared from the left and McManus slid to direct an effort at goal on the stretch but saw it slip wide, to his team-mates’ disgust.
It seemed that the winger had intended to pick out another Raith player arriving behind McManus, and the heated exchange of words between the two ex-Ton men was lapped up by the Cowshed.
They weren’t quite as amused in the closing stages when whistler Craig Charleston first awarded a free-kick 35 yards out and then a second one after adjudging Oliver to have blocked the strike with his arm, for which he was cautioned.
It was at this incident that Raith striker Mark Stewart clattered McNeil as he followed up on the initial set-piece after it deflected through to the shot-stopper.
The collision left McNeil’s face in a real mess – he later received two stitches – and unable to continue, and so Derek Gaston was brought on and put straight into the firing line.
McManus took charge after the lengthy delay and fired in a powerful free-kick that Gaston did well to beat out before gathering M’Voto’s weak follow up, and the home crowd erupted as though their side had scored a goal.
And there was another almighty roar when the replacement custodian claimed a cross in the sixth minute of stoppage and the ref blew to call time on an excellent afternoon’s work for the Ton in trying circumstances.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Gunning 17. Russell
18. McDonagh 10. Lindsay 8. Forbes 11. Nesbitt
7. Oliver 24. Quitongo
Subs used: 21. Murdoch (for Gunning, 38), 37. Tiffoney (for Nesbitt, 85), and 1. Gaston (for McNeil, 90).
Subs not used: 14. Scullion, 22. Orr, 37. Tiffoney, 39. Strapp, 1.Gaston (gk).
Booked: Doyle (50), Lindsay (81), Oliver (87).
Raith Rovers (4411): Cuthbert; Smith (Thompson, 59), M’voto, Benedictus, McHattie; B. Barr, Davidson, Callachan, Roberts (Johnston, 66); Skacel (Stewart, 59); McManus.
Subs not used: Matthews, Coustrain, Brennan (gk),
Booked: Benedictus (29), Skacel (58), M’Voto (72).
Referee: Craig Charleston
Images: David Bell