Ryan (21) – Oliver (34)
Forward Gary Oliver picked the perfect time to open his account for the campaign by equalising away at Dunfermline Athletic last night as Morton came from behind to pick up a point at East End Park.
Pars striker Andy Ryan had fired his side in front after a slice of good fortune presented him with a golden opportunity to open the scoring, which he duly did.
But Oliver grabbed the goal the Ton deserved to restore parity before the break and find the net for the first time in 10 months, since bagging a brace away at Ayr United back in January.
The goal game via a delivery from defender Michael Doyle, who was freed up to go forward by the switch to a 3-5-2 system implemented by manager Jim Duffy.
With Luca Gasparotto added to the squad on loan from Falkirk, the Cappielow gaffer felt he had the personnel to tweak his formation, something he also worked on in a recent bounce game against Stenhousemuir.
Despite a 10-minute delay to kick-off due to a turnstile failure, Dunfermline were quickest out of the traps, and Derek Gaston was required to make a solid save to push clear Nicky Clark’s firmly placed free-kick.
The wing-backs in the Ton system were providing effective width, though, and Mark Russell found himself in an unusually advanced position on 14 minutes, allowing him to fire off a shot that Sean Murdoch plunged to block.
It was at the other end that the left wing-back became unstuck, however, cannoning a clearance off team-mate Gary Harkins and straight into the path of Ryan on 21 minutes.
The former Hamilton Accies and Airdrie striker needed no second invitation and placed past a prone Gaston and into the bottom-left corner to make it 1-0 to the hosts.
The Ton keeper then did well to repel Canadian international Fraser Aird’s low drive as Dunfermline threatened to add to their advantage.
The visitors were growing in confidence, though, and, much like they did away at St Mirren in the recent derby, served up a positive response to falling behind.
And by 34 minutes they had battled their way back onto level terms, Oliver thrashing a deadly finish across Sean Murdoch into the bottom-left corner after he was unsuccessful in his first attempt to convert Doyle’s low cross.
Just like the proverbial London bus, as soon as one came along another followed right behind it, with Oliver finding the net again on 41 minutes.
The opportunity arose after midfielder Andy Murdoch had been sent sprawling by namesake Sean outside the box as the Morton man sidestepped his desperate challenge.
Playmaker Harkins took the free-kick and saw his curled attempt take a wicked deflection off Oliver and spin inside the left-hand post while Murdoch stood rooted to the spot.
Unfortunately for the Ton frontman and his side, assistant referee Kylie Cockburn had her flag raised for offside, ensuring the teams would go in level at the interval.
The second half was an end-to-end affair in which both sides survived unscathed due to a mixture of both astute – Gasparotto a measured presence at the back for the Ton – and desperate last-ditch defending,
Both teams had two big chances to snatch all three points in the final 10 minutes, the best of which fell to Ton substitute Robert Thomson, brought on after had Ton slightly readjusted to a modified 4-4-2 formation.
Ross Forbes provided the ammunition with a sensational inswinging delivery from the right that the targetman stooped to meet with a diving header that was kept out by a fine Murdoch reaction save.
Ton were on top at this stage, and a series of corners culminated in Gasparotto getting to a Harkins inwinging flag-kick at the far post but screwing wide after seemingly connecting with his shin.
As previously noted, the Pars had their chances, too, but Ryan scooped an excellent opportunity over the bar from inside the box, while Greenock-born Michael Paton whipped a fine shot a fraction wide of the right upright.
It would have been incredibly harsh on the Cappielow club, who more than deserved their draw – one that now means they have lost just one of their last five outings.
19. Gasparotto 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie
6. Doyle 3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 8. Forbes 17. Russell
11. McHugh 7. Oliver
Subs used: 10. Thomson (for McHugh, 79), and 15. Tiffoney (for Harkins, 83).
Subs not used: 21. Langan, 22. Armour, 23. Barr, 20. Doohan (gk).
Dunfermline (442): Murdoch; Williamson, Morris (c), Ashcroft, Talbot; Aird, Wedderburn, Shiels, Cardle (Paton, 83); Ryan, Clark (Smith, 90).
Subs not used: Martin, M’voto, Splaine, Gill (gk).
Booked: Murdoch (40), Williamson (41).
Referee: Stephen Finnie
Attendance: 4,816 (188 away fans)
Images: David Bell