Lyle (21) – Forbes (16), Quitongo (20)
Frontman Jai Quitongo scored a goal of the season contender as he fired Morton to a 2-1 win away at Queen of the South at the weekend.
Quitongo celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday and kept the party going at Palmerston by playing a huge part in sending his side up to third in the Ladbrokes Championship with his strike and an assist.
In a recent interview with Jonathan Mitchell, Quitongo, who would be named in the SPFL Team of the Week for his Dumfries display, recently admitted he hadn’t met his own high standards so far this season.
Since then, however, he has come off the bench to net an injury-time winner in the incredible comeback against Dunfermline Athletic before Saturday’s scintillating first-half set his side on course for another three points.
His inclusion at the expense of fellow forward Bob McHugh was one of three changes to the side that faced the Pars seven days earlier.
Connor McManus replaced an injured Andy Murdoch and Gary Harkins came in for the under the weather Robert Thomson in the other switches.
After a tentative first 15 minutes in which both teams felt their way into the game, Quitongo went off like a firework, exploding into life from out of nowhere.
On 16 minutes, he picked up possession wide on the left, where he had been deployed as part of a front three, and showed searing pace to burst outside Callum Fordyce, underlining his Match Attax status as ‘speed king’.
Upon reaching the bye-line he stabbed back across goal with the outside of his right boot. The cross evaded Harkins but ran on perfectly for Ross Forbes to guide a controlled first-time shot inside the left-hand post.
Four minutes later, Quitongo was again the chief protagonist. Collecting a Mark Russell pass out on the flank, he prodded at the ball four times in quick succession to tease another sprint down the outside.
But before Callum Tapping knew what was happening, he had dropped a shoulder to breeze inside onto his stronger foot, wrapping it around the ball to whip it over Alan Martin and into the net off the underside of the bar.
It was a breathtaking goal matched by the trademark somersault celebration, to which there was a homage to MMA fighter Conor McGregor’s exaggerated swagger tacked on at the end.
However, the joy was quickly put in check when Gary Naysmith’s side immediately halved the deficit through former Cappielow striker Derek Lyle.
Less than 60 seconds had passed when Stephen Dobbie waltzed into the area and slipped the ball outside to Lyle pulling off to the left.
The Queen of the South No. 9 made no mistake, lifting a left-footed shot over Derek Gaston from the corner of the six-yard box.
The Sinclair Street side threatened to re-establish their two-goal cushion before the break, but Michael Tidser’s fierce side-volley whistled a whisker wide while Harkins’ header bounced back off the face of the crossbar.
Where Quitongo had been the visitors’ key man in the first half, goalkeeper Gaston contribution was vital after the interval as he made a hat-trick of excellent saves to preserve the lead.
Within two minutes of the restart, he did superbly well to turn the ball around the post after Doonhamers star man Dobbie had weaved in off the right and stabbed at goal from close range.
On 51 minutes, he denied Dobbie once again, springing full stretch to his left to claw a free-kick clear of his goal with the well-struck effort threatening to nestle in the net.
Gaston’s best save, though, came with just five minutes remaining when he plunged low to his left to turn Lyle’s glancing header around the post, leaving the gutted hitman clutching his head with both hands.
The stop ensured that Jim Duffy’s men would record their first back-to-back league wins since mid-March and replace their opponents in third place in the league standings.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 17. Russell
8. Forbes 18. McManus 12. Tidser
7. Oliver 14. Harkins 9. Quitongo
Subs used: 10. Thomson (for Harkins, 73), 11. McHugh (for Forbes, 87), and 15. Tiffoney (for Quitongo, 90).
Subs not used: 21. Langan, 22. Armour, 20. Doohan (gk).
Booked: Tidser (24), McManus (51).
Queen of the South (4312): Martin; Fordyce, Kerr, Brownlie, Marshall; Tapping (Stirling, 66), Jacobs, Rankin (Dykes, 78); Dobbie; Lyle, Kane (McFadden, 69).
Subs not used: Rooney, Murray, Mercer, Leighfield (gk).
Booked: Lyle (32).
Referee: Alan Newlands
Images: David Bell