Murray (52), Kuate (64), Spittal (81)
Morton’s magnificent 2016/17 campaign came to a close last night after a 3-0 loss to Dundee United at Tannadice saw them go out of the Premiership promotion play-offs at the quarter-final stage.
Second-half goals from Simon Murray, Wato Kuate and Blair Spittal earned the Tangerines victory on the night and safe passage into the semi-finals after a 5-1 aggregate scoreline over the two legs.
Despite the immediate disappointment associated with the play-off defeat, this has truly been a season to treasure for everyone with the club at heart.
The Ton went into the game trailing 2-1 after a home defeat on Tuesday night but absolutely intent on extending their campaign by fighting back from behind.
To that end, manager Jim Duffy went really went for it, making four changes to the team that played at Cappielow in order to set up in an attacking 4-3-3 system.
Michael Doyle, Kudus Oyenuga, and Aidan Nesbitt, who was fit again following a chest infection, replaced Jamie McDonagh, Lawrence Shankland, and Michael Tidser.
Englishman Oyenuga was deployed on the right of the attacking trident, and he charged clear down the flank and six minutes and flashed a piercing drive across the face of goal and narrowly wide.
Celtic loanee Nesbitt was operating on the opposite side, and he picked out Oyenuga with an inswinging cross from which the hitman looked to have hit the target until it hit the back of a Dundee United head.
The fourth and final switch to the line-up was the introduction of goalkeeper Jamie McGowan ahead of an ill Derek Gaston for his first start of the campaign in what was arguably the biggest game.
The 20-year-old would do himself proud on the night, and he got off to a confidence-boosting start with a save down to his right to smother a Thomas Mikkelsen snapshot.
He then made an assured clearance under pressure tight to the bye-line after receiving a backpass for which defender Doyle apologised profusely, showing he was more than ready to perform on this stage.
McGowan, however, could have done little to prevent Simon Murray from scoring on 20 minutes when he controlled a Stewart Murdoch cross and feathered a shot across the face of goal and a whisker wide of the left post.
Morton spent the majority of the first half on the front, though, and forced a succession of corners as they piled on the pressure. But the Tangerines held firm and managed to clear their lines on each occasion.
The best save of the half – and the game – belonged to McGowan, springing full length to his right, the shot-stopper produced a sensational one-handed stop to claw a Tony Andreu header out to safety.
Although there was no scoring before the break, the Ton lads had given a strong account of themselves and had it all to play for in the second 45.
But just as they had in the first leg, the Sinclair Street sides first-half efforts seemed to take their toll and they conceded three times after the break to lose out.
Murray brokle the deadlock on 52 minutes, controlling and placing home from close range after Thomas O’Ware had only succeeded in headed Stewart Murdoch’s cross as far as the striker.
The course of the tie could have changed had Oyenuga converted a sublime inswinging Nesbitt cross from the left, but the cult hero couldn’t get over the ball and cleared the bar with a header from six yards.
And the wind was truly taken out of the Ton’s sails when, on 64 minutes, talented Camerooonian midfielder Kuate picked up possession 30 yards out and stroked a stunning, laser-guided left foot shot into the top left corner.
Spittal completed the scoring nine minutes from time by slamming a firm shot past McGowan after Murray had done superbly well to pick him out from the line to net his third goal in the three successive matches between the sides.
Despite seeing their side lose 3-0 on the night, the vocal travelling support, which numbered an impressive 719, took time to express their full appreciation for the unforgettable season their heroes had provided them.
Roll on 2017/18!
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 3. Lamie 17. Russell
10. Lindsay 8. Forbes 21. Murdoch
9. Oyenuga 7. Oliver 11. Nesbitt
Subs used: 12. Tidser (for Forbes, 63), 16. Shankland (for 10. Lindsay, 69), and 18. McDonagh (for Nesbitt, 73).
Subs not used: 14. Scullion, 37. Tiffoney, 39. Strapp, 1. Gaston (gk).
Dundee United (442): Bell (c); Murdoch, Durnan, Donaldson, Robson; Andreu, Kuate, Flood (Telfer, 66), Spittal; Murray (Fraser, 84), Mikkelsen (Coote, 84).
Subs not used: Dixon, Donaldson, Allardice, Zwick (gk),
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Attendance: 6,606 (719 away fans)
Image: David Bell