Millar (15, 80)
Midfielder Chris Millar‘s first double in over 12 years saw Morton record a 2-0 win over Alloa Athletic at the Indodrill Stadium this afternoon.
Although the 35-year-old enjoyed a reasonable return in his first spell at Cappielow, goals proved harder to come by over the course of a decade at St Johnstone, for whom he had netted once in the last seven seasons.
Yet, just six games into his Ton return, Millar rediscovered his scoring knack against the Wasps, breaking the deadlock with a precise, angled finish on 15 minutes.
After getting his name on the scoresheet for the first time in three and a half years, he added a second for good measure – and in fine style too.
Stepping on to Michael Tidser’s lay-off, Millar lasered a rising drive into the top-right corner from 25 yards to both bag his first brace since a 2-1 win away at Gretna in March 2006 and fire the current Ton side to victory.
The triumph took Ton’s unbeaten run to four consecutive competitive fixtures, and manager Ray McKinnon named the same starting XI – and matchday squad – that drew 2-2 with Queen of the South seven days earlier.
They made their intentions clear right from the start, Bob McHugh flashing a left-shooted shot narrowly wide of goalkeeper Neil Parry’s left post.
Ton were playing possession football almost exclusively in the Alloa half of the field, and this resulted in a number of free-kicks being awarded in the vicinity of the home box.
On eight minutes, Tidser attempted to curl a deadball over the wall and inside the right post after Ross McaLean was barged over in a central position 25 yards out, but the effort lacked power and Parry got across to catch.
But it was from a set-piece, albeit indirectly and in the third phase, that the Sinclair Street side would take the lead in the 15th minute.
Charlie Telfer’s original free-kick from the left was not fully cleared and it was worked wide before Rory McKeown delivered a cross that Millar collected on the right of the box and swapped sharp passes with Tidser.
Beating a lunging Liam Dick to the return and emerging with the ball, the Ton No.7 edged forward and rifled a fierce, low drive across Parry and inside the left post to score the first goal since his return.
Morton looked to press home their advantage on an incredibly tight astroturf surface at the Indodrill, and only the aptly-named Parry prevented them from doing so.
On 34 minutes, the Wasps keeper got down to smother a daisycutter from reliable left-back Rory McKeown, who is already looking to be an astute addition by McKinnon.
Moments later, Tidser cranked it up a notch, unleashing a stinging strike, the space for which he created with a smart swivel, that Parry did well to beat back.
His opposite number, Ryan Scully, had been reduced to interested bystander for much of the first 45 minutes as the Ton held sway, but his concentration levels were tested in the closing stages of the half.
With eight minutes until the interval, the custodian did well to beat back Jake Hastie’s powerful, angled drive after Alloa worked an overload on their left before comfortably scooping up Greig Spence’s hooked shot.
A double save to deny Stephen Dobbie and Lyndon Dykes it was not, but two vital saves nonetheless as they, combined with an Andy Graham header that bounced wide, saw Ton lead at the halfway stage.
The Greenock men made a promising start to the second half, with Millar and then right-back Reghan Tumilty testing Parry inside 10 minutes.
But it was Jim Goodwin’s side who seized the initiative in the second half and made attacking inroads that had hitherto proved beyond them in the face of Morton’s first-half hegemony.
Their approach play lacked bite in the final third, though, and Motherwell loanee Hastie’s cross-cum-shot, which an alert Scully did well to block with a strong hand, proved the closest they would come to a leveller.
It was just as the pressure was really starting to build, however, that that man of the moment Millar released the valve with a spectacular second goal with 10 minutes left to play.
Retrieving the ball down by the right-hand corner flag, winger MacLean rolled the ball back to Tidser up in support wide on the right.
The 28-year-old then pushed a pass infield to Millar positioned 25 yards out off the right side of the box to tee him up for a searing strike that screamed past Parry into the top-right corner.
It wasn’t only Millar’s second goal of the game, and his 37th for the club, but also top scorer Tidser’s fifth assist of what is already proving a very productive campaign for the playmaker.
Amazingly, particularly for the incredulous St Johntone fans following our live Twitter updates, Millar came within a whisker of registering what would have been the first hat-trick of his career.
MacLean rolled the ball into his path, and, positioned at a right angle to the goal, he whipped a shot towards the top-right corner, narrowly clearing the crossbar and missing out on an unforgettable Roy of the Rovers moment.
That said, a match-winning double was special enough, and ensured Millar and his Ton team-mates left the Indodrill having achieved their objective of picking up their first three points of the 2018/19 season.
14. Tumilty 2. Kilday 4. Buchanan 25. McKeown
7. Millar 8. McAlister (c) 12. Tidser
6. Telfer 11. McHugh 19. MacLean
Subs used: 18. Oliver (for Telfer, 66), and 5. Waddell (for McHugh, 86)
Subs not used: 3. Iredale, 10. R. Thomson, 20. Bell, 22. Armour, 1. Gaston (gk).
Booked: MacLean (26), Tidser (90+3).
Alloa Athletic (442): Parry; Taggart, Karadachki, Graham (c), Dick; Brown (Cawley, 59), Flannigan, Hetherington, Hastie; Trouten, Spence.
Subs not used: Robertson, Peggie, Goodwin, Henry (gk).
Booked: Karadachki (14), Flannigan (74).
Referee: Alan Newlands
⭐️ Star Man: Chris Millar
Image (main): David Bell
Image (inset): Gary Bradley