Telfer (35) – Shankland (19, 74), Moore (73, 81), McDaid (89)
Tidser missed pen (49)
A hugely disappointing second half saw Morton concede four goals to lose 5-1 against league leaders Ayr United and surrender their unbeaten home record this afternoon.
In-form Honest Men hitman Lawrence Shankland fired the visitors in front after 19 minutes, but Charlie Telfer scored his first Ton goal to equalise and send the sides in level at the break.
Playmaker Michael Tidser passed up an opportunity to fire Jonatan Johansson’s men in front from the penalty spot early in the second half, seeing his spot-kick saved by ex-Ton loan keeper Ross Doohan.
Ayr made the most of the escape by scoring three times in the space of eight minutes, sub Craig Moore bagging a brace either side of Shankland completing his own double, before Declan McDaid rounded off the scoring.
Reacting to what he deemed an unsatisfactory performance in the 1-1 home draw with Dunfermline Athletic seven days earlier, manager Johansson made four changes to his team and changed his system.
Lining up in a 4-3-3 formation, the Greenock gaffer brought in Telfer, Scott Tiffoney, Chris Millar – back after a groin strain – and Gary Oliver for Jack Iredale, Ross MacLean, Bob McHugh, and the injured Denny Johnstone.
A frantic opening 15 minutes saw both sides struggle to find their rhythm, albeit defender Gregor Buchanan was required to throw his body in front of Shankland snapshot to keep Ayr out.
The striker who spent time on loan with the Ton and the hitman currently in red-hot form for the Honest Men are two entirely different animals, as demonstrated by his opening-day hat-trick in the Betfred Cup tie back in July.
There has been no let up since that day at Somerset Park, Shankland going on to average more than a goal per game by scoring 15 goals in 13 appearances in all competitions.
That would rise to 16 when he lashed a left-footed half-volley high past Ryan Scully after Michael Rose nodded a McDaid outswinging corner down into the middle of the box.
But Ton redoubled their efforts and equalised with 10 minutes of the half remaining, Telfer doing superbly well to press high, rob Robbie Crawford of possession, and laser an angled drive into the bottom-left corner.
There was a sense that the hosts had the momentum with them now, and they were presented with a perfect opportunity to turn the game on its head from the penalty spot on 49 minutes.
Forward Oliver was sent sprawling by Doohan after beating the Ayr keeper to Millar’s precise, clipped pass down the inside-right channel.
Top scorer Tidser, who had netted six out of seven spot-kicks over the course of the past three seasons – successfully converting as recently as two games ago at Tannadice – stepped up.
Usually so accomplished in his technique and striking of the football, the playmaker didn’t connect well at all and ex-Sinclair Street shot-stopper Doohan dropped to his left to smother.
It was one of three clutch moments that occurred in quick succession, the miss closely followed by the loss of both Tidser and Millar to injury, knee and groin respectively, in the space of three minutes.
Johansson showed real faith in precocious 18-year-old midfielder Reece Lyon, who shone and scored against Celtic reserves in midweek, bringing him on for his home debut in place of Tidser.
Ross MacLean was then introduced in Millar’s stead, playing on the right of the attacking trident with Telfer dropping back into the midfield alongside McAlister and Lyon.
In the opposition dugout, Ian McCall made a double change that would prove vital when, in the 63rd minute, he sent on Moore and Craig McGuffie for Michael Moffat and Crawford.
Moore, in particular, made a considerable impact, scoring twice and laying on another as Ayr scored three times in the space of eight minutes.
Popping up at the back post on 73 minutes, the former Motherwell man turned in fellow sub McGuffie’s deflecting cross from the right as it looped up and dropped down at the back post.
Moore then turned provider in the space of 60 seconds, rolling the ball back for Shankland, all alone 12 yards out, to tuck an assured a first-time effort beyond Scully inside the left post.
Morton were at sixes and sevens as Ayr went on a feeding frenzy, Shankland passing up a chance to complete a hat-trick by attempting to dink the ball over Scully only to see the Ton keeper stand up to make the block.
But the fourth would soon arrive, Moore taking an Andy Murdoch pass in his stride before drifting into the home box and drilling a firm drive into the bottom left corner.
The seal was put on an agonising afternoon in the last minute when McDaid added a fifth, sweeping home through a number of bodies after Shankland’s angled shot broke back into the box off the feet of Scully.
14. Tumilty 2. Kilday 4. Buchanan 25. McKeown
7. Millar 8. McAlister 12. Tidser
6. Telfer 18. Oliver 17. Tiffoney
Subs used: 32. R. Lyon (for Tidser, 52), 19. MacLean (for Millar, 55), and 11. McHugh (for Tiffoney, 76).
Subs not used: 3. Iredale, 5. Waddell, 22. Armour, 1. Gaston (gk).
Ayr United (4411): Doohan; Smith, Bell (c), Rose, Harvie; McDaid, Geggan (Docherty, 81), Murdoch, Crawford (McGuffie, 63); Moffat (Moore, 63); Shankland.
Subs not used: Kerr, Forrest, Adams, Hare-Reid (gk).
Referee: Steven McLean
⭐️ Star Man: Charlie Telfer
Image (main): David Bell
Image (inset): Gary Bradley