O’Ware (80) – Morgan (25)
A late Thomas O’Ware header earned Morton a deserved derby draw as they fought back from behind to claim a point against league leaders St Mirren in front of the BBC Alba cameras at Cappielow today.
Talented Greenock-born winger Lewis Morgan fired the Saints in front after 25 minutes to send the visitors in leading at the break.
But Jim Duffy’s side upped their game considerably in the second half, and defender O’Ware headed home a Scott Tiffoney corner to open his account for the campaign and earn his side a merited share of the spoils.
It was just the Ton’s second outing since the beginning of December, with fixtures away to Livingston and Dumbarton both postponed due to the weather.
They claimed all three points in their last game, beating Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0 at Cappielow on Saturday 23 December.
Gaffer Duffy made one change to the team that came out on top against Caley, restoring Ricki Lamie to the starting line-up in place of Luca Gasparotto after the former served a one-match suspension.
Ton were slow in getting started and lacking in compsoure in the majority of the first half, looking to go long and hit Jai Quitongo all to often out of what looked like a little bit of tension brought on by the occasion.
The Saints, by contrast, were in total control, with captain Stephen McGinn finding time and space to dictate the game from the middle of the park.
It is local lad Morgan who has been the difference-maker for the Paisley outfit, though, winning them games they might well have drawn with moments of individual brilliance, most recently against Dundee United.
And the former First Touch Football Coaching kid drew first blood on 25 minutes, scoring his 13th goal of the campaign to fire the visitors in front.
An Ian McShane cross from the right was repelled by Michael Doyle under pressure, but the ball broke to Morgan and he pounced, slotting a cool finish back across Derek Gaston into the bottom-right corner.
In what proved to be a crucial let-off, Danny Mullen twisted to find space in the box and fired against the base of the post from a tight angle on the half hour, with the rebound breaking right to the fortunate Gaston.
Refree Kevin Clancy had an afternoon that left most of a home persuasion frustrated, with that feeling centring on a number of penalty calls. The first of which saw Robert Thomson cautioned for simulation on 34 minutes.
Despite spending the majority of the first 45 on the back foot, Morton could, and really should, have equalised in the 36th minute through Michael Tidser.
You would usually bet your bottom dollar on the playmaker striking the ball sweet and true, but he screwed a shot over the top from around 15 yards after Gary Oliver rolled a perfect pass into his path to set up the chance.
St Mirren closed out the half on top, but ambitious efforts from McShane and then Morgan were well off target and they had to settle for a one-goal lead at the interval.
The Sinclair Street side would up their game considerably after the break, but not before Mark Russell produced a vital last-ditch intervention to prevent Saints sub Gavin Reilly from converting on 58 minutes.
However, it was just after the hour that Duffy made a substitution that seemed to completely turn the tide, with the introduction of winger Tiffoney in place of birthday boy Harkins adding extra attacking impetus.
The final 25 minutes saw wave after wave of blue and white shirts heading toward Craig Samson’s goal as Morton’s confidence appeared to grow exponentially.
With St Mirren dropping ever deeper to protect their slender lead, it invited O’Ware to stride out of defence into the space afforded him and try his luck from 30 yards with a shot that whistled just wide of the right post.
But O’Ware would hit the target on 80 minutes, bulleting a header down and inside the same upright after meeting Tiffoney’s deep and inviting inswinging corner from the left.
Surprisingly for a centre-half who reached double figures last term, it was the stand-in skipper’s first goal of the campaign, and his wild celebrations showed just how much it meant to him to open his account in a derby.
There would only be one winner now, and when Tidser picked out O’Ware with a free-kick from the left, there was a sense that lightning was about to strike twice.
But the defender couldn’t quite get above the ball to generate the necessary power and direction, and his effort looped over the top.
Ton were swarming all over the Saints as the clock would down, and it’s still hard to work out how the ball stayed out of the net after Tiffoney drilled a low cross into the middle of the six-yard box on 88 minutes.
It was testament to the display of Doyle that, besides his goal, Morgan had been nullified, which was in evidence in the last minute when the frustrated wideman sliced a shot high over the top after failing to work space.
The last word of a rip-roaring second half would go to whistler Clancy, though, as he waved away what appeared to be a strong penalty claim for a foul on Bob McHugh as the sub looked to retrieve a Tidser corner.
In the end, a point apiece was a fair reflection of the 90 minutes, with the draw ensuring the Ton remain undefeated against their Renfrewshire rivals in three county clashes this season.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 17. Russell
3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 12. Tidser 10. Thomson
Subs used: 15. Tiffoney (for Harkins, 65) and 11. McHugh (for Quitongo, 85)..
Subs not used: 8. Forbes, 19. Gasparotto, 21. Langan, 22. Armour, 20. Doohan (gk).
Booked: Thomson (34), Harkins (50), Doyle (68), Oliver (82).
St Mirren (4411): Samson; L. Smith, Baird, Davis, Demetriou; Magennis, McShane, McGinn (c), Morgan; C. Smith (Sutton, 87); Mullen (Reilly, 55).
Subs not used: Irvine, Buchanan, MacKenzie, O’Keefe, R. Stewart (gk).
Booked: Magennis (68), McGinn (68).
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Image (main): Gary Bradley
Image (inset): David Bell