Jonatan Johansson picked up his first three points as Morton manager with a 1-0 win over Falkirk at Cappielow this afternoon.
Substitute Bob McHugh put his former club to the sword by coming off the bench to nod home the winning goal on 76 minutes.
The hitman was sent on by Greenock gaffer Johansson after the Bairns were reduced to 10 men following goalkeeper Leo Fasan’s dismissal early in the second half and earned Ton their first win in six matches.
The match saw former boss Ray McKinnon make his return to Sinclair Street, and the hype and atmosphere brought on by the circumstances made for a frenetic first 20 minutes.
Falkirk’s approach was to hit solitary striker Zak Rudden early, as well as attempting to send long balls in behind for the Rangers loanee to chase.
He was presented with an excellent early chance but sent a header spinning wide of the right post from Paul Paton’s dangerous whipped delivery from the right.
Ton settled and took control of the game, with Michael Tidser showing flashes of class as he threatened to do damage in the final third, including forcing Fasan into his first real save of the afternoon on 21 minutes.
Kerr Waddell, a commanding presence throughout, charged out to collect a forward pass and produced a wonderful piece of skill to flamboyantly beat a man before opening out play with a fantastic switch of play.
Playmaker Tidser controlled on the right of the box, worked a yard of space and unleashed a low drive that Fasan dropped to his left to smother.
The shot-stopper then engineered an opening at the opposite end by sending a free-kick deep into the Ton box and finding Rudden, who allowed the ball to drop over his shoulder and hooked across the face of goal and wide.
Ton went closer still minutes later when Oliver stepped onto a headed clearance and unleashed a searing left-footed half volley that cannoned off the inside of the left upright and ricocheted back out into play.
Manager Johansson was then dealt an injury blow when Lee Kilday was forced off with an ankle knock suffered in a 50-50 challenge. Fortunately, he had a ready-made replacement in right-back Reghan Tumilty.
On the opposite side, left-back Rory McKeown was fired up and made his presence felt at both ends in the closing stages of the half.
From popping up on the post to head a Tom Dallison effort off the line to charging into the opposition box to deliver a low cross across the face of goal, for which there were no takers, McKeown was a man on a mission.
Where the first half had been fairly even, the second 45 belonged to the hosts as they monopolised possession and camped out in the opposition half, with goalkeeper Ryan Scully reduced to the role of spectator.
The Ton’s efforts were aided by Falkirk custodian Fasan’s straight red card for a foul that saw him send Tidser sprawling just as the midfielder looked set to slot into an empty net after rounding him on the edge of the box.
Tidser dusted himself down and took charge of the resultant free-kick but saw his clipped effort clear both the wall and the the bar.
After failing to work deputy keeper David Mitchell on that occasion, he made sure to do so with his next attempt – a stunning swerving strike that required an acrobatic stop to prevent it from bursting the back of the net.
Motherwell loanee Ross MacLean picked up the mantle and looked like he could be the man to provide the cutting edge required, going close with a couple of swerving shots after working in off the left flank.
It was a former Fir Park team-mate who would make the difference, gaffer Johansson making an offensive change in order to press home the man advantage by introducing McHugh in place of Charlie Telfer.
The switch paid off big time when, with 14 minutes remaining, defender Waddell met McKeown’s raking diagonal with a towering header that dropped in the danger area and allowed the lurking hitman to nod home.
It was the 27-year-old’s fourth goal of the season, taking him clear as Ton’s second-top scorer behind Tidser on six, and one that is bound to prove amongst his most fondly remembered due to the circumstances.
The value was in full evidence when the final whistle sounded to a euphoric roar followed by club stalwarts Jim McAlister, Tidser, and Chris Millar making a beeline for the Cowshed in order to celebrate with the fans.
2. Kilday 4. Buchanan 5. Waddell 25. McKeown
12. Tidser 8. McAlister (c) 7. Millar
6. Telfer 18. Oliver 19. MacLean
Subs used: 14. Tumilty (for Kilday, 35), 11. McHugh (for Telfer, 65), and 3. Iredale (for MacLean, 88).
Subs not used: 28. Purdue, 32. R. Lyon, 37. McGrattan, 1. Gaston (gk).
Falkirk (4231): Fasan (Mitchell, 49); Muirhead, McGhee, Dallison, Brough; Paton, Buaben (Lewis, 46); Sammut, Irving, Petravicius; Rudden (McKee, 82)
Subs not used: Kidd, Robson, Harrison, Haber (gk).
Booked: Muirhead (27), Paton (61), Lewis (62), Rudden (82).
Sent off: Fasan (49).
Referee: John Beaton
⭐️ Star Man: Kerr Waddell
Image: David Bell