Morton got the 2017/18 season off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over Berwick Rangers at Shielfield Park this afternoon in their opening Betfred Cup, Group F fixture.
There was a degree of controversy surrounding the deciding goal, with Michael Tidser claiming his name should be on the scoresheet while the likes of Opta and the media credited home defender Oliver Fleming with an O.G.
Tidser skippered the side for the second successive fixture after also leading the team out at Turriff United seven days earlier with both Lee Kilday and vice captain Thomas O’Ware out injured.
Manager Jim Duffy made just one change to the team that triumphed at Turra, replacing Robert Thomson, who missed out on doctors orders after undergoing a minor chest procedure on Friday, with Jai Quitongo.
Just as they had in their pre-season matches, Morton enjoyed the lion’s share of posession over the piece and pinned their opponents in their own half for almost the entire 90 minutes.
Clearcut chances were at a premium, though, and the Ton’s first real opportunity was actually presented to them by their opponents, when, in the 28th minute, goalkeeper Robbie McCrorie scuffed a goal-kick straight to Gary Oliver.
Oliver arrowed straight in on goal, but Rangers loanee McCrorie redeemed himself by blocking the striker’s attempt to slip the ball past him.
The shot-stopper then enjoyed a slice of good fortune, Quitongo’s fierce snapshot from deep inside the box squirming through his legs before clipping his heel to prevent the ball ending up in the back of the net.
Morton were beginning to turn up the heat on the hosts, and the goal that you could sense was coming duly arrived on 33 minutes.
A feature of the Greenock men’s game was the way in which they regular forced Berwick into errors or robbed them of possession by pressing hard in the engine room.
Tidser was extremely successful in this regard over the course of the match, and it was him stealing the ball just inside the opposition half that the only goal of the game originated.
After picking his opponent’s pocket, he immediately fed Oliver and continued his run on the outside right, receiving a perfectly-weighted return and lifting the ball past the advancing McCrorie with his right foot.
It was hard to tell whether or not the original effort was on target, but defender Oliver Fleming made sure it ended up in the net with an emphatic volley as he tried to clear.
Only a fantastic reflex save prevented Ton from doubling their advantage inside a minute, with McCrorie doing well to repel Quitongo’s angled drive with his feet.
The second half had the feel of a pre-season friendly about it for large spells, which is understandable with the Betfred Cup starting so early and this being both sides first competitive fixture.
It took until 66 minutes for either side to register an effort worthy of note, and it would turn out to be Berwick’s best opening of the game.
Striker Greg Rutherford was slipped in as he pulled clear down the inside left channel, but he failed to get a clean connection on his angled shot and the ball trundled harmlessly wide of the right-hand post.
At the other end, substitute Ross Forbes, who replaced Gary Harkins as the midfield pivot, came close to opening his account with a drive that took a wicked deflection and McCrorie just managed to prevent crossing the line.
McCrorie then produced a stunning stop to deny Darren Barr a debut goal when he propelled himself up to his left to claw the defender’s header clear after he had met a Mark Russell cross at the far post.
Duffy’s side upped the tempo in the closing stages as they sought a second to kill off the Wee Gers, and Bob McHugh stretching to reach another Russell cross and stabbing just wide in the last minute.
However, one goal would prove enough on the day as the Sinclair Street side got the 2017/18 campaign off to a positive start with three points.
6. Doyle 23. Barr 5. Lamie 17. Russell
3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 12. Tidser (c)
9. Quitongo 11. McHugh 7. Oliver
Subs used: 8. Forbes (for Harkins, 66), and 15. Tiffoney (for Quitongo, 77).
Subs not used: 21. Langan, 22. Armour, 36. Hynes, 30. McGowan (gk).
Berwick Rangers (4411): McCrorie; Cook (Chapman, 72), Fleming, Scullion, McDonald; Donaldson, Thomson (Orru, 81), Stewart, Phillips (Murrell, 72); Irving; Rutherford.
Subs not used: Fairbairn, Brennan (gk).
Referee: Grant Irvine
Images: David Bell
Full Gallery: Tontastic