Morton Under-20s 3 – 0 Airdrie Under-20s
McWaters (42 pen), McAleer (49), Miller (86)
Morton Under-20s moved back to the top of the Development League West with a strong 3-0 win over fellow full-timers Airdrie at Parklea this afternoon.
Andy Millen’s Ton teens had slipped from top spot after Queen of the South moved two points clear with a 1-0 win away at rivals Stranraer.
But goals from Alex McWaters, Caolan McAleer, and substitute Scott Miller saw the Greenock boys reclaim their place at the summit.
The afternoon already had a positive vibe before a ball was kicked after Conor Pepper was named in the starting line-up, making a long-awaited return to action following nine months out with a knee injury.
After a fairly even first half in which both goalkeepers were called upon to make just one reasonable save apiece, it looked as though the teams were locked in stalemate heading in at the break.
But striker Ben Armour was tripped as he drove into the box four minutes from half-time, presenting the hosts with a penalty and the ideal chance to edge in front.
Wideman Alex McWaters, who netted for loan club Largs Thistle in a 4-3 win over Arthurlie at the weekend, took responsibility and nonchalantly stroked the spot-kick to the right, sending Matthew Kerr the wrong way.
Irishman Pepper had eased himself back into action over the course of the 45 minutes and made way for Darren Hynes at the interval in a pre-planned move.
He had been joined in the starting line-up by fellow first-teamer Caolan McAleer, and the winger had an eventful second half, beginning with an early clash that left him winded on the touchline.
But fuelled with a renewed purpose, he took the game to the Diamonds – the club with which he spent last term – before he was brought off.
On 49 minutes, McAleer doubled his side’s advantage in style by weaving his way into the box, shifting outside the defender and rifling an unstoppable rising drive into the top-right corner from 10 yards.
He then forced two smart saves from Kerr, first when McWaters picked him out with a fantastic cross from the left and then after carving out an opening for himself with a fine piece of dribbling.
Ton had been the dominant force in the second half, and sub striker Scott Miller rounded off a comfortable win by bursting onto a brilliant Jack Purdue volleyed flick and slotting a cool finish into the bottom-left corner.
The victory stretched the Ton kids’ unbeaten run to nine matches and saw them leapfrog the Doonhamers back to the top of the table, where they are one point clear with a game in hand.
2. Pepper 5. Mitchell 4. Tennent 3. Strapp
7. McAleer 8. Langan (c) 5. Anderson 11. McWaters
9. Purdue 12. Armour
Subs used: 17. Hynes (for Pepper, 46), 14. Docherty (for McAleer, 71), and 19. Miller (for Armour, 81).
Subs not used: 15. Duffy, 16. Eardley, 18. Duffy, 20. McGowan (gk).
Referee: Duncan Williams
Images: Gary Bradley
Conor Pepper image: Jonathan Mitchell