Ross (12), Iredale (49), McHugh (80)
Morton booked their place in the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with a brilliant 3-0 win over Dumbarton at Cappielow.
Jim Duffy’s side came into this fifth round tie having failed to beat their Championship rivals in two league meetings so far this term.
But goals from Frank Ross, his first for the club, Jack Iredale, and Bob McHugh saw the Cappielow club ease into the last eight in extremely impressive fashion.
Since assuming the managerial hotseat in the summer of 2014, gaffer Duffy and Craig McPherson have now steered their side to three quarter-finals and a semi-final between the Scottish and League Cup competitions.
They went into today’s last 16 tie against the Sons in buoyant mood, having recorded three consecutive victories in all competitions, including a 2-1 win away at Dunfermline Athletic in the last round.
Ton boss Duffy named the same starting line-up for those outings, and he sent out an unnamed side for the fourth successive fixture – and they proved themselves more than up to the task against the Sons.
Aberdeen loan star Ross would produce his premier performance in a Ton shirt thus far, and he gave an early indication of what to expect in the seventh minute.
Continuing as the team’s attacking spearhead, Gary Oliver wriggled his way to the right bye-line and pulled back into the path of the 19-year-old, who unleashed a stinging, rising drive that Scott Gallacher did well to catch.
But he did not have much longer to wait to score his first Morton goal, and just his second ever senior strike, finding the net in quite phenomenal fashion in the 12th minute.
Starting on the left, Ross teased and nutmegged right-back Aidan Wilson, surged into the box, exchanged a slick one-two with Oliver and finally flashed an assertive left-footed finish past keeper Gallacher at his near post.
The Sinclair Street side had made a storming start and their polished passing football in the opening quarter of an hour was a joy to watch.
There was an end product to their possession, too, and it could and perhaps should have been two when, on 15 minutes, a brilliant exchange ended with Michael Tidser firing a crisp through ball into the feet of Andy Murdoch.
The midfielder was off balance as he attempted to control the pass in the process of bursting into the box, and when he managed to get the ball out from his feet was only able to toe poke wide of the right post on the stretch.
Australian defender Jack Iredale has been a revelation since Greenock gaffer Duffy took the decision to harness his assets by deploying him at left-back after returning from a productive loan stint at Queen’s Park.
A left winger in his youth during his days at the Australian Institute of Sport, his positive attacking intent has been a prominent feature of the Ton’s play of late.
And that dynamism saw him get on the end of Tidser’s piercing, angled pass to the back post, taking a touch to control before fizzing a dangerous low drive across the face of goal.
Iredale has also been part of a back four that would, by the end of the afternoon, have kept another cleansheet and conceded just twice in their last four matches.
They were watertight against a Dumbarton team boasting recent recruit Iain Russell, the striker having recently reconsidered his decision to retire from the game.
The ex-Ton frontman has had a habit of scoring against us over the years, both before and after his stint at Cappielow, but he was completely snuffed out by Thomas O’Ware and Luca Gasparotto.
His only real opening came and went on 34 minutes, meeting Tom Walsh’s inswinging cross from the left with a glancing header that skipped off the sodden surface and slipped harmlessly beyond the far post.
This was a brief interlude in 45 minutes of home dominance, and Ross, with a low shot, and O’Ware, with a powerful header from a Gary Harkins corner, went close to extending their advantage before the break.
They picked up right where they left off on the restart and continued to hold sway in the second half, getting an early insurance goal after four minutes.
Iredale was the scorer, ghosting in at the back post to stab high into the net after Oliver had seen a close-range shot blocked – quite incredibly – by Gallacher after Tiffoney had rolled the ball inside to him.
It was superb follow up play by the 21-year-old, gambling to get in at the back post and score his third goal in his last five appearances if you include his final appearance for Queen’s Park.
Youth academy product Tiffoney is another player who has been producing the goods since being given an extended run in the team, and he created a promising opening on 66 minutes.
After driving to the bye-line, he fired back to Oliver. The striker miscued his shot and the ball span up in the air, dropping perfectly for Ross, but he rushed his header and nodded over the bar.
Just as he did against the Pars last week, Duffy switched things up on 70 minutes, bringing on McHugh – in place of Harkins, who went off to a rapturous reception after another midfielder masterclass – to tweak his system.
While the formation was essentially the same, there was a reshuffle of personnel, with Tiffoney moved out to the left, Ross switched to the right, Tidser moved into the centre, while McHugh joined Oliver up top.
The intelligent former Falkirk forward immediately began to ask questions of the beleaguered Sons, forcing Gallacher to spring to his right to push a stinging drive wide.
And McHugh displayed the predatory penalty box instincts for which he is known by being on hand at the near post to slam a first-time volley inside the near post and put the cherry on the icing on the cake on 80 minutes.
The goal, Ton’s top scorer’s eighth this term, was laid on by winger Ross with a drilled cross from the tight to the right bye-line, and he was deservedly announced as sponsors Millions‘ man of the match shortly afterwards.
The tie was long since decided when referee Craig Thomson blew his full-time whistle to confirm Morton’s fourth consecutive victory in all competitions and their place in today’s draw for the last eight.
Our quarter-final opponents will be revealed live on Sky Sports immediately following the game between Aberdeen and Dundee United at Pittodrie.
6. Doyle 19. Gasparotto 4. O’Ware (c) 26. Iredale
12. Tidser 3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 25. Ross
Subs used: 11. McHugh (for Harkins, 70), 17. Russell (for Tiffoney, 85), and 21. Langan (for Ross, 87).
Subs not used: 5. Lamie, 16. Strapp, 20. Brennan (gk).
Dumbarton (442): Gallacher; Smith, Dowie (c), Barr, Smith; Froxylias (Nade, 65), Carswell, Hutton, Walsh; Nisbet, Russell (Handling, 71)
Subs not used: Gallagher, Wilson, Stewart, Ewings (gk).
Booked: Wilson (69).
Referee: Craig Thomson
Image (main): David Bell
Image (Inset): Gary Bradley