Dobbie (33) – Oliver (55)
Morton came from behind to claim a point away at Queen of the South and push themselves back into the promotion play-off places this afternoon.
Lethal Ladbrokes Championship marksman Stephen Dobbie weaved through the away defence and slotted past Derek Gaston to open the scoring on 33 minutes.
In-form Ton frontman Gary Oliver equalised 10 minutes into the second half to take his recent scoring streak to three goals in his last five matches.
But it also took a brilliant piece of goalkeeping from Gaston to claim a draw against the Doonhamers, clawing Dobbie’s sensational 40-yard effort out before claiming on the turf.
The home fans were left incensed as they felt the ball had clearly crossed the line, but standside assistant Paul O’Neill disagreed, with the Ton eventually stretching their unbeaten run to five matches.
After four fixtures unchanged, manager Jim Duffy made two alterations to his starting line up, bringing in Bob McHugh and Mark Russell for Scott Tiffoney and Michael Tidser.
Gary Harkins has been instrumental in Ton’s recent form and was first to threaten, floating a free-kick, from 22 yards to the right of centre, across across his body and over the wall, clipping the underside of the crossbar.
But that bright start gradually faded as the Doonhamers took control of the game, and the home fans thought their side had scored on 12 minutes.
Stephen Dobbie swung over a set-piece from wide on the left and Darren Brownlie attacked at the far post, the defender’s effort rippling the outside of the net and causing a mistaken roar of celebration.
Dobbie is the division’s leading marksman, and he both added to his tally and underlined his class on 33 minutes by weaving through the heart of the Ton defence and nonchalantly slipping the ball past Derek Gaston.
It hadn’t been the best of first halves for the visitors, and their concerns were compounded just before the break when defender Jack Iredale was forced off injured and replaced by Tiffoney.
The switch saw Russell, who had started on the left of a midfield four, drop back in to left-back, while Tiffoney took his place on the left flank.
Morton had not got going at all in the first 45 minutes, and it was clear that they would have to raise their game considerably after the restart.
And that’s exactly what they did, with playmaker Harkins, in particular, stepping up to the plate and taking the game by the scruff of the neck as he bossed the next 20 minutes.
Such was his prominence, the home fans sat in the main stand had begun to scream at their team to get closer to the 33-year-old as he swaggered around finding time and space in the final third.
When afforded an inch, Harkins has the ability to punish you for it, and, after waltzing round a number of challenges on 55 minutes, he slipped Oliver in on goal with a piercing pass.
The red-hot frontman took a touch to steady himself and placed a finish, one so cool that you would believe he had ice in his veins, under prone goalkeeper Jack Leighfield.
Morton had made their dominance count by scoring when on top, and it proved vital to the outcome as Gary Naysmith’s men were certainly the more menacing of the two sides in the final half hour.
Talisman Dobbie went close three times in the space of five minutes, seeing one shot deflected onto the roof of the net, another skew wide after he miscued a volley, and a final angled attempt brilliantly blocked by Gaston.
The game’s biggest talking point involved another altogether more extraordinary exchange between strikestar and shot-stopper in the 73rd minute.
Charging forward down the right, Dobbie crossed the halfway line and unleashed a sensational swerving shot from 40 yards in an attempt to catch Gaston on the hop.
The Ton goalkeeper made a hasty retreat towards his goal and produced a quite magnificent save, throwing his body backwards into the net while simultaneously clawing the ball down onto the turf.
He then scrambled back up and plunged on the ball as it sat motionless on the goal-line. The Queens fans began full celebrations claiming a goal while their social media team Tweeted a goal flash stating it was now 2-1.
However, linesman O’Neill stood strong in his belief the ball had not crossed the line, an assertion which was later proved to be absolutely correct by video footage.
Supporters in the mainstand were, at the time, left incandescent, a couple claiming the ball was a ‘foot over’ – and that anger would have been magnified exponentially had they conceded straight away.
Whistler Kevin Clancy allowed play to go on, and as all hell broke loose, a focused Morton charged straight down the other end and almost took the lead, only a fine reflex save from Leighfield thwarting Russell.
After surving that scrape, the Doonhamers recovered their composure and finished the game on top, with Lyndon Dykes coming within a whisker of scoring with a fierce drive that may have brushed Gaston’s fingertips.
You just knew lady luck was smiling on the Ton, though, when, in stoppage time, Connor Murray curled a shot around a rooted Gaston and watched in agony as it cracked the inside of the right post and rebounded to safety.
It meant that despite not being at their best, the Sinclair Street side had picked up a precious point to move back above Dunfermline into fourth ahead of a hectic schedule of three games in the space of seven days.
6. Doyle 19. Gasparotto 4. O’Ware (c) 26. Iredale
25. Ross 3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 17. Russell
Subs used: 15. Tiffoney (for Iredale, 41), 12. Tidser (for Ross, 85), and 5. Lamie (for McHugh, 85).
Subs not used: 16. Strapp, 21. Langan, 20. Brennan (gk).
Booked: Gasparotto (57), Oliver (83).
Queen of the South (442): Leighfield; Mercer, Fordyce, Brownlie, Marshall; Thomas, Jacobs, Rankin (Todorov, 84), Dykes; Fergusson (Murray, 61), Dobbie.
Subs not used: Rooney, Cameron, Beerman, Henderson (gk).
Booked: Dykes (45+1).
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Image (main): David Bell