Fraser (62), Baird (69), Iredale (90+4) – Handling (56), Burt (88)
Jack Iredale resuscitated Morton’s promotion play-off chances by scoring a monumental 94th-minute winner against Dumbarton at Cappielow tonight.
Anything less than maximum points would have all but ended any realistic hopes the Ton had of a top-four finish, and it looked like that would indeed be the case when Liam Burt’s deflected drive drew the Sons level late on.
The Aussie defender materialised inside the box deep into stoppage time to steer a rebound into the net at the Wee Dublin End and procure a critical victory for the Cappielow club.
It was the final thrill in a real rollercoaster ride in which Jim Duffy’s side fell behind to a Danny Handling strike, turned the game around through goals from Gary Fraser and John Baird before conceding that Burt goal.
The Rangers loanee’s 88th-minute effort looked to have shattered the Greenock men’s play-off aspirations until Sinclair Street saviour Iredale slotted home right at the death to breathe life back into their season.
Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Livingston had made winning this rescheduled fixture nothing short of imperative, and gaffer Duffy made four changes to the side that went down to that late defeat.
Iredale, Baird, Fraser, the three of whom would go on to score, and Frank Ross came in for Andy Murdoch, Scott Tiffoney, Gary Oliver and Luca Gasparotto, the latter two suffering from a virus and an injury respectively.
The Ton made an encouraging start, and Robert Thomson got on the end of Michael Tidser’s inswinging corner and nodded narrowly over the top under pressure in the fifth minute.
His strike-partner Baird thought he had fired the Ton in front on 14 minutes after springing to head in at the back post, but the stand-side assistant’s flag was up for offside.
With the hosts looking at every possible avenue to find a way through a resilient Dumbarton, Iredale often took it upon himself to lead the charge down the left.
On 21 minutes, the marauding full-back drove forward down the flank, breezing past two men only to see his low cross cut out at the front post.
As promised in a recent video interview with media officer Jonathan Mitchell, Partick Thistle loanee Fraser hit the target with a trademark long-range piledriver.
His crackling 22nd-minute effort required Sons keeper Scott Gallacher to look smart and swoop down to his right to turn the ball round the left post.
The Sons have their own play-off concerns to contend with, however, and crossed the Erskine Bridge desperate for a win that could see them close the gap on Falkirk as they attempt to avoid a ninth-placed finish.
And Stevie Aitken’s side found an added impetus in the closing quarter hour of the first half, beginning with Tom Walsh’s mazy dribble that concluded with him sending an off-balance shot sailing into the Wee Dublin End.
They went significantly closer to scoring on 35 minutes, Andy Stirling fizzing a low ball across the face of the six-yard box from the left that Handling came within inches of turning into the net on the slide.
It was this incident, in which Handling collided with Derek Gaston, that would see the goalkeeper replaced by Conor Brennan at the break and forced to later attend hospital for an X-ray.
The Ton surived one last near thing five minutes before the break when left-back Chris McLaughlin checked onto his right foot and dropped a cross in at the back post.
Frontman Callum Gallagher ghosted into the box and got himself under the flight path, attempting to flick on inside the upright. There didn’t appear to be enough, if any, contact and the ball skided wide.
Following a scoreless first half lacking in penalty-box incident, this hugely important Ladbrokes Championship fixture exploded into life in the second half, with all five goals arriving after the break.
And the Sons stunned Cappielow by scoring in the 56th minute, Handling controlling Grant Gallagher’s cross from the right before rifling an unstoppable drive into the top-left corner from 15 yards.
Crucially, the lead lasted just six minutes thanks to charismatic midfielder Fraser‘s first goal for the club, a superbly-taken 62nd minute equaliser.
Tiffoney was the creator, doing magnificently well to drive in down the left past two men and pull-back into the path of Fraser, who took a touch and stroked a firm left-footed shot into the top-right corner.
Substitute Tiffoney made such in impact after replacing Michael Tidser, who was struggling with a neck problem, on 55 minutes that he was named as the sponsors’ man of the match after playing a part in all three goals.
His contribution to Ton’s second was to clip over the corner that bobbled around the box before Baird pounced on a defensive error, swivelled and smashed a sensational half-volley across the keeper and inside the left post.
Ton began piling on the pressure in the search for a killer third goal, and sub Bob McHugh was presented with a chance to put the game to bed on 78 minutes.
A counter-attack saw Baird flick out to Michael Doyle on the right who then cleaved through the Sons with a first-time, angled pass that, in a massive overload, left four Morton men bearing down on the Sons goal.
McHugh took responsibility, accepted the ball, steadied himself and, with just Gallacher to beat, scooped over the bar. If there was one man you would have put your mortgage on to score in that situation it was ‘Finish, Bob’.
And that incredible and uncharacteristic miss looked as though it could have proved so costly when Sons sub Burt silenced the home support two minutes from the end.
The Scotland youth starlet picked up a second ball 22 yards out and unleashed a low drive that took a wicked deflection off Thomas O’Ware and fired into the middle of the net with Brennan already committed to his dive.
But just when it looked like it was game over, the aforementioned Tiffoney manouvered in the box and stabbed a shot towards goal with his left foot.
Goalkeeper Gallacher parried out to his right and then, as if in slow motion, Iredale rode to the rescue when he appeared at the back post right on cue to slam a side-footed shot into the net and spark bedlam in the stands.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 26. Iredale
23. Fraser 14. Harkins 12. Tidser 25. Ross
10. Thomson 18. Baird
Subs used: 20. Brennan (for Gaston, 46), 15. Tiffoney (for Tidser, 55), and 11. McHugh (for Thomson, 66).
Subs not used: 3. Murdoch, 17. Russell, 21. Langan, 28. Purdue.
Booked: Iredale (85)
Dumbarton (4411): Gallacher; Dick (G. Gallagher, 51), Barr, Dowie (c), McLaughlin; Walsh (Stewart, 79), Hutton, Wilson, Stirling; Handling (Burt, 72); C. Gallagher
Subs not used: Hill, Froxylias, Nisbet, Ewings (gk).
Booked: Walsh (44), Handling (65), Stirling (90+1).
Referee: Craig Charleston
Image (main): Gary Bradley
Image (Inset): David Bell