Dunne (3), Cadden (25), Tait (67), Moult (72)
Ten-man Morton suffered a disappointing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Group F top seeds Motherwell in the Betfred Cup this afternoon.
A depleted Ton side minus three key defenders went 2-0 down to goals from Charles Dunne and Chris Cadden before Gary Harkins was sent off for a high challenge that referee Kevin Clancy deemed worthy of a straight red.
The Premiership outfit added two more after the break, through Richard Tait and substitute Louis Moult, to claim all three points and climb above Jim Duffy’s men into top spot in the section with a game in hand.
Morton came into the match off the back of a midweek penalty victory against Queen’s Park, and Duffy made two changes to the team that had earned a spot-kick bonus point.
Out went the injured Ricki Lamie to be replaced by new signing Connor McManus, while Jai Quitongo was restored to the starting line-up in place of Bob McHugh.
The Cappielow gaffer also switched up his system for a fixture away at top-flight opposition by reverting from his recent 4-3-3 formation to the 4-4-1-1 that has been a regular feature in recent seasons.
However, even the finest laid gameplans can count for little in the face of conceding a goal via a setpiece inside the first three minutes.
Home defender Dunne climbed over a team-mate to nod in at the far post after Carl McHugh had headed a Craig Tanner, whose finish was deflected wide by Derek Gaston in the first place, corner back into the mix.
A physically imposing and dominant Well were proving a real menace at deadballs, and McHugh was a whisker away from making it 2-0 with a diving header from another Tanner flag-kick.
Stephen Robinson’s side took the direct route to goal again on 25 minutes, with keeper Trevor Carson’s long free-kick deep into the Ton half resulting in goal number two.
The ball was knocked down by Ryan Bowman in the first instance before Tanner produced a cute touch to flick into the path of Cadden, and the midfielder then dispatched an emphatic low finish into the bottom-right corner.
Although it was already a long-way back from two-goals down, Ton were left with a mountain to climb when, on 38 minutes, they were reduced to 10 men after Gary Harkins was dismissed.
Harkins went in for a challenge with his foot raised shortly after he himself was denied a free-kick, and ref Kevin Clancy deemed it to be serious foul play, issuing the 32-year-old with the first straight red of his career.
The game could have been dead and buried at half-time but for two huge contributions from Gaston, the keeper racing off his line to dispossess Bowman with a tackle before pawing a shot wide from the same player.
Duffy tweaked his team at the break in an attempt to rescue the situation, pushing targetman Thomson up through the middle while pulling Quitongo back to the left and asking him to break in support when he could.
However, the second period would follow a similar pattern to the first 45, with Motherwell well on top and Gaston regularly forced into action between the sticks.
On 67 minutes, the Cappielow custodian was required to pick the ball out of his net for a third time, wing-back Tait slotting home a rebound after reacting quickest to McHugh’s precise curled shot crashing back off the bar.
Former Motherwell man Ross Forbes forced Carson into his only meaningful save of the 90 minutes with a free-kick from the right on 70 minutes.
Coincidentally, the Fir Park outfit’s fourth and final goal, scored by substitute Moult, came via an almost identical opportunity, albeit a mirror image.
The hitman stood over the ball just outside the left-hand side of the Morton box and whipped a precise free-kick over the wall and inside the near post.
A fine Gaston double save to first thwart Moult and then Gael Bigirimana dug team-mate Darren Barr out of a hole following his short backpass seven minutes from the end.
But it was largely irrelevant in terms of a group section tie in which the visitors where soundly beaten by an accomplished and impressive top-flight outfit.
6. Doyle 18. McManus 23. Barr 17. Russell
8. Forbes 3. Murdoch 12. Tidser (c) 10. Thomson
Subs used: 11. McHugh (for Quitongo, 76), 16. Strapp (for Thomson, 76), and 22. Armour (for Russell, 88).
Subs not used: 15. Tiffoney, 21. Langan, 30. McGowan (gk).
Sent off: Harkins (38).
Motherwell (3411): Carson; Kipre, Heneghan, Dunne; Tait (Rose, 76), Cadden, McHugh, Bigirimana, Frear (Fisher, 68); Tanner; Bowman (Moult, 68).
Subs not used: Hammell, McManus, MacLean, Griffiths (gk).
Booked: Bigirimana (32)
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Attendance: 3,113 (460 away fans)
Images: David Bell