Longridge (90+4) – Oliver (88)
Morton saw two precious points slip through their fingers in devastating fashion at Livingston last night after conceding an equaliser in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
David Hopkin’s side had Shaun Byrne sent off for a second bookable offence just after the hour, and Ton looked to have made their man advantage count when Gary Oliver opened the scoring with just two minutes remaining.
With the game seemingly dead and buried and three points in the bag, Jackson Longridge snatched a point with a hopeful 25-yard strike that took a deflection to leave Derek Gaston wrong-footed and creep inside the post.
Taking a point away at second-placed Livi would have been a commendable outcome prior to the game, but the circumstances in which it came to pass meant it felt more like a defeat.
It wasn’t, though, and taking aside the soul-crushing finale, this was a significant improvement on Saturday’s 3-1 loss away at Falkirk, one that manager Jim Duffy later described as ‘horrendous’.
The Ton boss made three changes to his starting line-up in response, with Jack Iredale, Frank Ross, and Oliver coming in for Michael Doyle, who was suspended, Bob McHugh, and John Baird.
Frontman Oliver injected some life into proceedings after an uneventful opening quarter of an hour in which both sides tentatively felt their way into the game.
Taking an Iredale pass into feet, he shifted the ball outside a defender and let fly from 22 yards. The effort was too central, though, and a well-positioned Neil Alexander claimed comfortably.
Livingston responded with a swift counter-attack that ended with Lee Miller tapping into an empty net after Jordan Thompson’s low drive was parried by Gaston. Fortunately for Ton, the flag was up for offside.
The officials would also cause consternation amongst the away contingent, though, ignoring two strong penalty claims, for fouls on Oliver and Scott Tiffoney, that occurred right in front of the travelling support.
The Almondvale outfit began to force the issue and after Josh Mullin flashed a swerving drive just wide of the top-right corner, Gaston was required to produce a smart double save to preserve parity.
First, the Cappielow custodian demonstrated fine reflexes to deny Mullin with his feet before deflecting Rafaelle De Vita’s follow up wide of the left post thanks to some handy positioning.
Gaston was really forced to earn his corn at this stage as Mullin dropped a couple of testing inswinging corners on top of him, requiring the shot-stopper to claw the ball clear on three consecutive occasions.
The last word of the first half went to the Ton, albeit Murdoch’s controlled volley from Ross’s clipped cross lacked purchase and Alexander was able to gather in at his midriff.
Alexander had to deal with an almost identical effort in the first minute of the second period, Tiffoney snapping onto a Michael Tidser headed flick on and stinging Alexander’s palms with a fierce volley.
The match had been a relatively even affair up until the 66th minute when midfielder Byrne was shown his second yellow card in the space of seven minutes for a trip on Harkins in the middle of the pitch.
From then on in, the encounter resembled an attack-versus-defence exercise in which the visitors swept forward in wave after wave attempting to find a way through a dogged defence-minded opponent.
The hosts did well to restrict Morton’s opportunities, and when they elected to try their luck from distance, Alexander was equal to their efforts, such as when he parried a Tidser piledriver past the post.
Emergency loan signing from Partick Thistle Gary Fraser made his Ton debut as a late substitute as Duffy mixed things up in an attempt to find a way through.
And that elusive opener finally arrived with two minutes remaining, Oliver pouncing to place a side-footed shot inside the right post after the Livi defence had failed to deal with Tiffoney’s low cross from the left.
Yet, despite scoring so late on, maximum points would still evade them when sub Longridge netted with what turned out to be the last kick of the ball, leaving a number of crestfallen Ton players sinking to the turf in dismay.
17. Russell 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 26. Iredale
3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 12. Tidser 25. Ross
15. Tiffoney 7. Oliver
Subs used: 23. Fraser (for Ross, 79), and 18. Baird (for Murdoch, 90).
Subs not used: 11. McHugh, 16. Strapp, 19. Gasparotto, 21. Langan, 20. Brennan (gk).
Booked: Harkins (68).
Livingston (3412): Alexander; Gallagher, Halkett (c), Lithgow; Mullin (McMillan, 72), Byrne, Thompson, De Vita (Longridge, 58); Pittman; Hardie, Miller (Jacobs, 68).
Subs not used: Buchanan, Boyd, Robinson, Maley (gk).
Booked: Lithgow (41), Halkett (56), Byrne (59).
Sent off: Byrne (66).
Referee: Greg Aitken
Images: David Bell