Match Report: Morton 0-1 Livingston

Match Report: Morton 0-1 Livingston
by Jonathan Mitchell

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Greenock_Morton_FC_logoMorton 0 – 1 Livingston

  Cadden (47)

 

Morton saw their seven-game unbeaten run come to an end at Cappielow last night after Livingston recorded a narrow 1-0 win on a bitterly cold evening in Greenock.

This scheduled midweek fixture was one of the few to survive the Siberian blast, but Nicky Cadden’s 47th-minute strike ended Ton’s hot streak as David Hopkin’s side recorded their third win on Sinclair Street this season.

Jim Duffy’s men came into the third-versus-second clash on the back of an incredible run of six wins and one draw in all competitions.

Their most recent victory was historic in that it was the club’s first competitive triumph away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and with this match coming just three days later, Duffy made three changes to his side.

Lewis Strapp, whose last Ton start, coincidentally, also came at home Livi, on 15 August last year, and Bob McHugh came in for Frank Ross and Scott Tiffoney.

There was also a debut for John Baird, with the emergency loan signing from Inverness Caley replacing Gary Oliver in the starting line-up.

A miserly defensive record has been the foundation upon which Morton’s phenomenal run of recent form has been built, one that had seen them keep four cleansheets in their last six.

Their goals against record is second only to Ladbrokes Premiership league leaders Celtic in the whole of the SPFL – yet they were strangely unsecure at the back of the opening stages last night.

Ton were fortunate to get off the hook twice inside the first seven minutes, in fact, after Derek Gaston spilled a cross from the left but managed to deflect Ryan Hardie’s follow up wide.

Goalkeeper Gaston then pushed Raffaele De Vita’s resultant corner into his own net under pressure from striker Lee Miller, the extent of which referee Euan Anderson deemed excessive and awarded a welcome foul.

Players from both sides were struggling to get a clean shot on goal, with the understandably rock solid surface, which had passed a 1pm pitch inspection, seeing the ball bobble up in front of strikers as they pulled the trigger.

Ton top scorer McHugh was the main victim in the first quarter of an hour, sending a hat-trick of efforts spinning wide as he sclaffed through his strikes.

Livi midfielder Scott Pittman was the first to hit the target, his left-footed volley forcing Gaston to scramble down low to his left to smother on 11 minutes.

Pittman also passed up two excellent opportunities to score much to the hosts’ relief, however, sending a free-header wide from just outside the six-yard box and then miscontrolling Scott Robinson’s precise through ball.

Opportunity knocks … Russell clipped the outside of the upright with this strike          © David Bell

By the 25-minute mark, Morton had settled and adapted to the adverse conditions. They began to control possession and assert themselves as an attacking force.

And new recruit Baird’s trademark badgering of opposition defences led to the best goal-scoring opportunity of the evening on 28 minutes.

The experienced striker did brilliantly to close down Shaun Byrne and block his clearance before bursting clear and slipping into the path of Mark Russell breaking outside in support on the left.

Russell, starting at left midfield with Strapp deployed behind him at full-back, went for goal with a first-time shot but agonisingly brushed the outside of the right post with his low drive.

Ton had upped the ante, and Michael Doyle forced veteran goalkeeper Neil Alexander to drop down to his right to make a smart save with a crisp strike after Russell had fed the right-back on the corner of the box.

They did not make the breakthrough, though, and it was stalemate when the sides went in at the interval, a 15-minute period that halted the momentum built up by the hosts.

The West Lothian outfit made a scorching start to the second half after emerging from cold storage, with wideman Cadden rifling a searing shot into the top-left corner from 25 yards to break the deadlock.

Morton had Gaston to thank for preventing them from falling further behind. Pittman burst through the heart of the home defence but the keeper read the slotted finish and plunged to his left to smother.

It would prove a frustrating 45 minutes for the Ton as they tried, and failed, to break down a resilient and well-drilled Livingston side, too often resorting to firing long balls into the area.

Sponsors’ man of the match Gary Harkins’ set-pieces looked their most likely route to goal, but besides one free-kick, which he attempted to steer inside the near post, there were no takers for a series of deliveries.

Cadden, meanwhile, had a taste for glory after earlier netting his first of the season and blitzed the home goal with a handful of shots in the second period, albeit none of them really threatened to breach the net.

However, his earlier strike would prove enough for Livi to claim another victory at Cappielow, maintaining their Indian sign here this season and moving eight points clear of ourselves in second place.

 

Morton (442)

1. Gaston
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 15. Strapp
3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 12. Tidser 17. Russell
11. McHugh 18. Baird

Subs used: 25. Ross (for Tidser, 70), and 7. Oliver (for Russell, 83).

Subs not used: 15. Tiffoney, 21. Langan, 28. Purdue, 20. Brennan (gk).

Booked: Doyle (80).

Livingston (352): Alexander; Gallagher, Halkett (c), Lithgow; De Vita (McMillan, 56), Pittman, Byrne, Robinson (Jacobs, 41), Cadden; Hardie, Miller (Longridge, 75).

Subs not used: Buchanan, Mullin, Boyd, Maley (gk).

Booked: De Vita (54), Halkett (60).

Referee: Euan Anderson

Attendance: 1,373

 

Image (main): Gary Bradley

Image (inset): David Bell