Buchanan O.G. (19), Tidser (66 pen) – Stirling (69)
Morton strengthened their play-off credentials yesterday with a hard-fought win over Dumbarton that moved them six points clear of fifth-placed Raith Rovers.
A first half own goal from Gregor Buchanan and an emphatic Michael Tidser penalty was enough to grind out a valuable victory against Stevie Aitken’s Sons despite Andy Stirling’s deflected strike setting up a tense closing 20 minutes.
This success was one that a depleted Ton side really had to earn on a miserable day, with Gavin Gunning departed, no Jai Quitongo, Conor Pepper, or Ricki Lamie, who had been ill as well as suffering a knock in training, and Jamie McDonagh out through suspension.
And although forward Gary Oliver made the matchday squad, he was only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench following a pre-match examination
This all combined to leave manager Jim Duffy having to rework his starting XI. He did so by deploying Kudus Oyenuga as a focal point with Aidan Nesbitt operating just off him in a free role of sorts.
Elsewhere, Tidser took up the left midfield spot while club captain Lee Kilday filled the gap left by Gunning, making his first start since the 6-0 Scottish Cup win away at Beith on 3 December.
Within nine minutes, the Ton boss had to adapt again when striker Oyenuga went down clutching the same hamstring that forced him off against Hibs last month and brought on Jon Scullion in his stead.
Despite the disruptions the Greenock me edged in front 10 minutes later when Nesbitt seized on a loose ball inside the box and fizzed in a low cross that defender Buchanan sliced past his own keeper into the Sinclair Street goal.
Sons shot-stopper Alan Martin looked to be struggling with an injury from virtually the first minute and was replaced by Mark Brown between the sticks on 26 minutes as the visitors were forced into an early change of their own.
The former Rangers and Celtic keeper was fortunate not to be left picking the ball out of the net as his first act as Ross Forbes’ ingenious, disguised chip swirled over his head and rebounded back off the right-hand post.
Dumbarton, though, began to ruffle home feathers after the half hour, and Derek Gaston was required to make a solid block with his chest after Sam Stanton surged into the Ton box off the left.
The ever-reliable Jamie Lindsay and left-back Mark Russell were then required to clear off the line in quick succession before Robert Thomson headed a gilt-edged chance wide after meeting a Craig Pettigrew inswinging cross.
Right footed left-back Pettigrew then shifted in off the flank and unleashed a low drive that Gaston successfully scrambled wide as the Sons finished the first half in control.
The break seemed to do Morton good and they came back out rejuvenated and only a fine Brown save prevented Forbes from scoring after turning Nesbitt’s low cross towards goal.
Russell was next up to test the replacement, unleashing a rising drive, after being teed up by a combination of Forbes’ initial pass and Tidser’s miscontrol, that Brown managed to brush over the top with his fingertips.
Tidser, though, was unerringly accurate in his contribution to, and conversion of, Morton’s second goal when it arrived on 66 minutes.
It was his initial forward pass into the box for Nesbitt to chase that saw a spot-kick awarded after whistler John Beaton adjudged defender Darren Barr to have tripped the winger as he hared after the ball at full pelt.
Tidser was the designated taker following Thomas O’Ware’s miss at Dunfermline, and he made no mistake from 12 yards, thrashing past Brown low to his left.
But there was no time for the Ton to get comfortable with their two-goal cushion as Dumbarton halved the deficit within three minutes.
Winger Andy Stirling was the scorer, profiting from some nervy defending when he was left alone on the edge of the box with the space to fire in a low drive that deflected past Gaston and crept inside the right-hand post.
It set up a tense final 20 minutes, but for all the Sons sought out an equaliser, Morton continued to create chances of their own, with Scullion and Nesbitt both forcing smart stops from Brown.
The one big chance that fell to the visitors saw substitute striker Christian Nade slice a half volley over the bar from inside the box two minutes from time.
When the final whistle blew, there was a tangible sense of relief around Cappielow – as well as a feeling that this was a fantastic three points claimed in testing circumstances.
6. Doyle 2. Kilday (c) 4. O’Ware (c) 17. Russell
8. Forbes 21. Murdoch 10. Lindsay 12. Tidser
Subs used: 14. Scullion (for Oyenuga, 10), and 22. Orr (for Nesbitt, 90+1).
Subs not used: 7. Oliver, 37. Tiffoney, 39. Strapp, 30. McGowan (gk).
Dumbarton (4141): Martin (Brown, 25); Smith, Barr (c), Buchanan, Pettigrew; Docherty (Nade, 67); Stirling, Todd, Stanton, Thomson (Vaughan, 70); Fleming.
Subs not used: McCallum.
Referee: John Beaton
Images (main and inset): David Bell
Image (inset): Gary Bradley