Mullen (10), Morgan (72) – Doyle (30)
Morton saw their play-off hopes officially ended by rivals St Mirren at the Paisley 2021 Stadium today as they suffered their first Renfrewshire derby defeat of the campaign.
Lewis Morgan netted a second-half winner to set up the Saints’ title party after Michael Doyle had earlier cancelled out Danny Mullen’s opener with his first goal for the Cappielow club.
Following last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Queen of the South, the Ton went into the game needing a win – and Dumfermline to lose – to keep their slim play-off hopes alive.
And Jim Duffy made three changes to the team that suffered the Doonhamers defeat, Gary Oliver, Michael Tidser, who returned from injury, and Frank Ross coming in for Bob McHugh, John Baird, and Mark Russell.
The hosts, on the other hand, were in celebratory mood prior to receiving the Ladbrokes Championship trophy and they got the party started early by taking the lead after 10 minutes.
As he has done on so many occasions for the Saints this term, local lad Morgan would make the difference on the day, starting with the assist that slipped Mullen in on goal to stab over the outrushing Conor Brennan.
Deputy shot-stopper Brennan was making just his third Ton start with Derek Gaston still injured, and he was called into action again on 15 minutes, dropping low to his right to deny Kyle Magennis.
After a ropey start, the Greenock men steadied the ship and took the game by the scruff of the neck as they attempted to get back on level terms.
Oliver raised optimism on 18 minutes when he accepted Gary Harkins’ threaded pass on the edge of the box and curled a beautiful effort over Craig Samson only to see it cannon back off the crossbar.
Ton sliced through the Saints’ rearguard again soon after when Scott Tiffoney found Harkins with a brilliant backheel return at the end of a slick one-two.
The pass put former St Mirren player Harkins though on goal but his placed shot lacked punch and Samson smothered down to his right, leaving the midfielder furious with himself for not finding the net.
It was no surprise when the equaliser arrived on the half-hour mark. What was a surprise, though, was that defender Doyle scored the goal.
The right-back shocked everyone by popping up at the back post to meet Ross’s whipped cross from the left with a bullet header into the net from point-blank range.
Morton were firmly on the front foot now, and only a smart save by Samson at his left prevented Oliver’s fierce drive from flashing inside the near post, while Harkins dropped a left-footed curled just over the crossbar.
Despite that pressure, the visitors required a brilliant Brennan save to go in at the break on level terms when he used his body to deflect a stinging Cammy Smith piledriver over the bar.
But the Northern Irishman was left completely exposed at what would prove the game-deciding goal on 72 minutes after Ton were caught on the counter-attack and left two-on-one at the back.
Smith picked up possession on the right, surged forward and slipped an angled pass into Morgan, who slotted a calm finish past Brennan before celebrating with his arms outstretched in front of the away fans.
Goalscorer Doyle prevented Jack Ross’s side from going further in front with a brilliant last-ditch challenge to thwart substitute Gavin Reilly.
However, the defender’s afternoon would end early after another slide tackle left him nursing a dead leg that forced him off and to limp around the perimeter of the pitch as Robert Thomson took his place.
Oliver just cleared the bar with a speculative swinging strike in stoppage time, and with that went the Ton’s chances of claiming a point that would have at least maintained an unbeaten record in derbies this term.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 26. Iredale
12. Tidser 3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 25. Ross
15. Tiffoney 7. Oliver
Subs used: 18. Baird (for Ross, 71), 23. Fraser (for Harkins, 79), and 10. Thomson (for Doyle, 82).
Subs not used: 11. McHugh, 17. Russell, 21. Langan, 1. Gaston (gk).
Booked: Iredale (65).
St Mirren (442): Samson; L. Smith, MacKenzie (Baird, 26), Davis, Demetriou; Flynn (Reilly, 67), Magennis (Stewart, 61), McGinn (c), Morgan (Hippolyte, 86); C. Smith, Mullen.
Subs not used: Irvine, McShane, Hill, Stewart (gk).
Booked: Morgan (72).
Referee: Bobby Madden.
Attendance: 6,422 (442 away fans)
Image: Gary Bradley