Shankland (38) – Moore (45)
Morton booked their place in the end-of-season Premiership promotion play-offs with a 1-1 draw against Ayr United at Cappielow on Saturday.
Aberdeen loan striker Lawrence Shankland gave Ton the lead but Craig Moore leveller right on the cusp of half-time proved enough to earn the struggling Honest Men a share of the spoils.
The point, though, proved enough to guarantee Jim Duffy’s men a top-four finish after both Dunfermline Athletic and Queen of the South lost their respective fixtures at home to Falkirk and Dumbarton.
A sunny Greenock afternoon started on a poignant note when the 2,390 crowd celebrated the lives of community coach Kris Juszczak and lifelong supporter Jim MacVicar with a rapturous one-minute applause prior to kick off.
The team then picked up the baton and took the game to the visitors straight from kick-off, spending the vast majority of the first half firmly on the front foot.
It was an eventful 45 minutes for frontman Shankland, and he was first to have a go, trying his luck with a dipping shot from the edge of the box that flashed just wide of the left-hand post.
Aidan Nesbitt was also proving a thorn in Ayr’s collective side, and after skewing a shot high over the top, he looked to have found the net with a low, curled cross that forced Daryll Meggatt to get back on the line to hack clear.
Another goalline clearance was required to prevent the hosts edging in front on 14 minutes; this time Thomas O’Ware’s downwards header from a Ross Forbes corner was scrambled to safety.
Morton continued to dominate and carve out clear-cut opening, Shankland stealing in behind the Ayr back four again on 20 minutes but failing to get enough elevation on his lob attempt, leaving Greg Fleming with a straightforward catch.
The 21-year-old was presented with an almost identical opportunity four minutes later, taking a touch to get the ball out from his body after bursting clear before flashing an angled drive across goal and wide of the left-hand upright.
Shankland seemed to be growing increasingly frustrated at his failure to find the net, and so he seemed a relieved figure when he broke the deadlock seven minutes before half-time.
The hitman showed real predatory instincts to react quickest and stab the ball into the net after Gary Oliver’s whipped shot took a wicked deflection and span up and over the top of the Ayr defence before dropping deep inside the box.
For their part, basement boys Ayr had offered little in attacking sense besides Alan Forrest’s scooped shot high into the Wee Dublin End and Mike Rose’s daisycutter that forced Derek Gaston to plunge to his right just to cover the angle.
And yet they would go in level at the break after Moore arrowed down the right and smashed an emphatic angled drive across Gaston into the top-left corner right on the stroke of half-time.
The second half would prove something of a non-event, and it took 10 minutes for an noteworthy incident to occur when Forbes attempted to whip a shot inside the left-hand post, forcing Fleming to push clear with two hands.
Ayr were more of a threat after the break and right-back Nicky Devlin should really have scored after seizing on a poor Nesbitt touch and marauding clear but sclaffed a hurried shot wide of the target.
Local lad Gary Harkins carved his hometown team open with a clever scooped pass to release Moore on 70 minutes only to see the Motherwell loan striker slash past the upright.
Ton’s best chance to take all three points arrived 11 minutes from time following a slick exchange in which Nesbitt delivered a low cross from the left that sub Jamie McDonagh intelligently stepped over to allow the ball to run on.
Forbes was the man arriving behind his team-mate and he attempted to steer a first-time shot beyond Fleming. The connection wasn’t as crisp as he would have like, though, and the Ayr shot-stopper saved to ensure the match would end in stalemate.
Results elsewhere meant that the Greenock men had secured a top-four finish and a spot in the play-offs – a fantastic feat in a superb season that is now guaranteed to stretch to at least two more matches.
6. Doyle 2. Kilday (c) 4. O’Ware 3. Lamie
8. Forbes 21. Murdoch 12. Tidser 11. Nesbitt
7. Oliver 16. Shankland
Subs used: 18. McDonagh (for Shankland, 73), 17. Russell (for Nesbitt, 82), and 10. Lindsay (for Tidser, 90+1).
Subs not used: 9. Oyenuga, 19. Donnelly, 39. Strapp, 20. Halliwell (gk).
Ayr United (4411): Fleming; Devlin (c), Balatoni, Balartoni, Meggatt; Forrest McDaid, 86), Rose, Docherty, Cairney (McGuffie, 73); Harkins; Moore.
Subs not used: Gilmour, Murphy, El Alagui, Hart (gk).
Booked: Meggatt (75), Harkins (84), Rose (87).
Referee: Steven Kirkland
Images: David Bell