McLaughlin (13), Elliot (30), Gray (90) – Easdale (1), Langan (26)
Morton Under-20s were left scratching their heads last night after seeing Stranraer twice come from behind to snatch all three points at the King George V Playing Fields.
On a bitterly cold night in less than salubrious surroundings of the council-run facility in Renfrew, the Ton made a searing start to light up a gloomy December evening by scoring within the first minute.
Ben Eardley, playing out wide, was sent scampering clearn down the left flank by Lewis Strapp and picked out Alexander Easdale with a precise pull-back.
The striker allowed the ball to run across his body to stroke a cool, side-footed finish in off the right post with his instep to score a fine first goal for the Under-20s.
Easdale was then at the heart of another attacking move on 10 minutes, threading a pass through the legs of a Blues defender for Reece Lyon, who then strode forward and saw a wicked cross crack the crossbar.
Despite that positive start, Stranraer restored parity in the 13th minute, Kieran McLaughlin sweeping a follow up inside the left post after Ton’s trialist goalkeeper Kyle MacLean did well to parry an angled drive.
But Easdale and then Lyon combined to create an opening for Ruaridh Langan to fire Morton back in front on 26 minutes. Easdale opened out the play to Lyon, and he dissected the Blues defence with a sublime through ball.
Skipper Langan was coolness personified as he burst through the middle and slotted a calm finish past Ryan McLaren low to his left, taking his tally to four goals in his last six outings.
Ton held their lead for just four minutes this time, though, Stranraer equalising for a second time when a free-kick broke out to Cameron Elliot and his volley took a significant deflection and span into the net.
And debuting goalkeeper MacLean prevented his side from going in at the break behind after saving at the feet of the goalscorer just as he threatened to round him and roll between the sticks.
Ton took the game to hosts in the second half, and Easdale thought he’d fired Ton in front when he anticipated the break of the ball and lobbed a fine finish into the net from a tight angle only to be flagged offside.
Midfielder Eardley then forced a smart save from Ryan McLaren with a 22-yard free-kick that the home keeper had to fly to his right to push clear.
Next up to try his luck was Langan, but he was thwarted twice in the space of a minute, with McLaren first blocking from point-blank range before the assistant’s flag ruled out after he had turned into the net.
The chances kept coming and shot-stopper was forced to tip Lyon’s firmly placed shot from a Ben Armour pull-back onto the frame of the goal.
Stranraer, coached by ex-Ton defender David MacGregor and featuring former Cappielow kids John Mitchell and trilaist Alex McWaters, were not without their chances.
And the woodwork also came to Darren Barr’s side’s rescue on 68 minutes, Ross McKenzie clipping the top of the crossbar with a decent effort. MacLean also made a fine one-on-one stop to precent McWaters from netting.
Yet, with Morton really pushing for the three points – Armour and Langan were thwarted by a fine double save while Armour thrashed a rising drive against the outside of the right junction – Stranraer snatched the victory.
In the final minute, left-back David Gray arrives at the back post to meet a cross from the right with a bullet header into the net claim the win.
Although it was not the desired outcome, the fact first-team midfielder Connor McManus made his return after over two months out while defender Gavin Watt, 16, made his debut meant there were positives to take.
2. Hynes 4. Ben Docherty 5. Watt 3. Strapp
7. Lyon 6. McManus 8. Langan (c) 11. Eardley
9. Armour 10. Easdale
Subs used: 15. Hayes (for Strapp, 65), 17. Miller (for Easdale, 71), and 14. McGrattan (for Ben Docherty, 82).
Subs not used: 12. Blair Docherty, 20. Carracher
Images: Gary Bradley