Forbes (11), Tidser (17), McDonagh (42), O’Ware (51, 90), Lindsay (78)
Morton cruised into the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup with a comprehensive 6-0 victory against junior outfit Beith at Bellsdale Park this afternoon.
The clubs were meeting in a competitive fixture for the first time, with the match staged at the second attempt after the initial date, seven days earlier, was postponed due to a frozen pitch.
After a fortnight in cold storage, the Ton were slow to get warmed up and survived a few scrapes in the opening 10 minutes as the hosts looked to make the most of shooting down their considerable slope in the first half.
But any early jitters were settled in the 11th minute when Ross Forbes opened the scoring with a crafty free-kick that took the wind out of The Mighty’s sails.
Jai Quitongo was fouled 20 yards out on the left-hand edge of the Beith box, and set-piece specialist shaped as if top clip the ball to the far post before catching out Stephen Grindlay by bending a low shot around the wall and inside the left-hand upright.
It was Forbes’ sixth goal – his fourth from a free-kick – of a fantastic season in which he has also registered 14 direct assists in 22 appearances.
Michael Tidser, on the other hand, was still looking to open his account for the campaign, and he did so in fine fashion on 17 minutes.
After pouncing a loose ball tight to the touchline on the left-hand side, the playmaker feigned to cross before checking back outside the defender and whipping the ball around Grindlay and into the net with his right foot.
From then on in, the gulf between a team sat at the top end of the Championship and a junior outfit, albeit the reigning Scottish Junior Cup holders and West of Scotland Super Premier Division, became apparent as the visitors’ class told.
And only a fine reaction save from former Dumbarton goalkeeper Grindlay prevented Gary Oliver from adding to their tally on 28 minutes, deflecting the forward’s placed finish from Quitongo’s square pass wide with his feet.
Former Hamilton Accies defender Connor McGlinchey was then required to hack clear off his line after Quitongo wriggled through the hosts’ back three and saw the ball break off him towards the net.
Mark Russell was back at left-back after a couple of outings on the left of midfield, but he found himself him in advanced position high on the flank on 37 minutes.
The 20-year-old arrowed in field and squared for Forbes arriving on the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s attempt to steer a first-time effort into the net was just inches out and the ball crept narrowly wide.
When Morton did finally add a third it took a sublime solo effort from striker-turned-right-back Jamie McDonagh three minutes before half time.
Picking up possession around the halfway line, Northern Irishman McDonagh surged deep into enemy territory, weaved in off the flank and then completed a 360 degree turn inside the box to make space and rifle home a low drive.
Only the frame of the goal prevented the in-form Forbes from sending his side in at the break with a four-goal cushion, his spectacular laser-beam like shot from 30 yards crashing back off the junction of bar and post in stoppage time.
Ton were shooting down the slope in the second half and the natural flow of traffic saw the ball break back for O’Ware arriving on the edge of the area.
On 49 minutes, he charged onto a loose ball and opted for brute power as he unleashed an uncontrolled piledriver that fizzed over the bar and behind.
When an almost identical opportunity broke his way on 51 minutes, O’Ware took a difference course of action, making sure to get his head over the ball and fire a more measured low drive into the net via the left-hand post.
The Ton vice captain will have been disappointed not to double his tally just after the hour when he skewed a diving header wide from inside the six-yard box after McDonagh had picked him out with a tantalising cross from high on the right.
Despite scoring a half-dozen on the day, neither of the Cappielow club’s strike pairing got their name on the teamsheet – but it was neither a reflection on their performances or for the want of trying.
In fact, only a fine block from Grindlay prevented Gary Oliver from finding the net when, on 67 minutes, he parried an angled finish after the former Hearts man and Quitongo combined to cleave a path through the Beith back five.
Oliver was at the heart of Morton’s fifth goal, intelligently flicking a first-pass into feet round the corner for Jamie Lindsay breaking beyond him into the box.
Celtic loanee Lindsay took the ball in his stride and slotted a calm left-footed finish past the helplessly exposed Grindlay to make it 5-0 on the day.
The goal was ample reward for the 21-year-old midfielder’s polished performance both on the day, one that caught the attention of watching ex-Ton defender Stuart MacDonald, and over the last few months.
Beith included former Sinclair Street skipper Mark McLaughlin in their starting line-up and brought another familiar face off the bench in Kenny McLean.
The forward, who spent three campaigns at Cappielow between 2004 and 2007, came close to netting a consolation goal on 81 minutes, sending a downwards header a whisker wide of the right-hand post.
However, it was the visitors who would have the final say, with O’Ware netting his second of the afternoon and his eighth of a prolific season that has seen him surge to the top of the club’s scoring charts in the final minute.
The 23-year-old met sub Caolan McAleer’s outswinging corner, awarded after Grindlay pushed Russell’s drive wide, with a firm downwards header that crept inside the right-hand post despite the Beith shot-stopper’s best efforts to keep it out.
Although the scoreline would suggest a walk in the park, Morton fans only have to look back a couple of years to an embarrassing Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Lowland League Spartans to realise these ties aren’t foregone conclusions.
This was a professional and assured afternoon’s work from a side unbeaten in six games in all competitions as well having gone three games without conceding a goal, and who now face fellow Championship club Falkirk in the fourth round.
18. McDonagh 2. Kilday (c) 3. Lamie 17. Russell
8. Forbes 10. Lindsay 4. O’Ware 12. Tidser
24. Quitongo 7. Oliver
Subs used: 9. Oyenuga (for Quitongo, 74), 16. McAleer (for Forbes, 83), and 11. Nesbitt (for Tidser, 86).
Subs not used: 5. Gunning, 6. Doyle, 21. Murdoch, 20. McNeil (gk).
Beith (352): Grindlay; Sheridan (c), MacDonald, McLaughlin; McGlinchey, Frize, Wilson, Christie (Watt, 60), Burke (McLean, 60); McPherson (Collins, 64), McGowan.
Subs not used: Martin, McArthur, McBain (gk).
Referee: John McKendrick
Attendance: 1,693 (985 away fans)
Images: David Bell