Morton hit the post and saw a last-gasp Gregor Buchanan header cleared off the line as they were held to a goalless draw by 10-man league leaders Ayr United at Somerset Park this afternoon.
Greenock gaffer Jonatan Johansson was confident his players would rise to the occasion against the side sat at the Ladbrokes Championship summit after last week’s home loss to Alloa Athletic.
And although a share of the spoils against an in-form Ayr side unbeaten at home this term was a satisfying way to bounce back, they can consider themselves unfortunate not to have done so with maximum points.
Ton boss Johansson made just one change to the team that went down to a home defeat against the Wasps a week earlier, bringing Charlie Telfer, who had recovered from an ankle injury, back in place of Ross MacLean.
He also kept faith in the same 5-3-2 system that had proven so effective in matches against Queen of the South and Partick Thistle, and the players responded with an accomplished performance.
They were assured in possession and put the shackles on a Lawrence Shankland-led attack that had scored eight goals in the two previous meetings, five of which came at Cappielow less than two months ago.
After a blunt afternoon seven days earlier, Ton had a renewed attacking impetus and looked dangerous going forward, particularly in crafting two fantastic openings towards the end of the first half.
Gary Oliver won a race down the right wing after a couple of Ayr errors and arrowed in on goal. With team-mates too far behind, he went for goal from an acute angle and saw his stabbed shot blocked by Doohan.
Ton flooded forward again three minutes later, with Reghan Tumilty slipping McHugh through on goal down the inside-right channel at the business end of the move.
The man topping the club’s scoring charts slowed to pick his spot and rolled the finish beyond Doohan – and wide of the left-hand post, leaving him holding his head in his hands and the sides on level terms at half-time.
Ayr upped their game at the start of the second half, Andy Geggan and Mark Kerr forcing two smart saves from Derek Gaston in quick succession as they threatened the Ton goal.
Before the Honest Men could gather any serious momentum, they were reduced to 10 men after Craig Moore was dismissed for lashing out in response to Buchanan aggressively kicking the ball clear from under him.
Johansson’s men almost capitalised within minutes, but Oliver saw his measured effort rebound off the post after feigning to shoot, drifiting past a couple of defenders and slipping the ball across the face of goal.
Morton would spend the remainder of the match on the front foot as they looked to press home their numerical advantage over an unflinching Ayr side determined not to succumb.
Midfielder Telfer was forced off injured after a heavy challenge, while veteran Kerr was fortunate to only receive a booking for chopping out McHugh’s feet from under him to nip a promising attack in the bud.
But they looked to have made the breakthrough right at the death when towering defender Buchanan headed MacLean’s corner towards the net – only to see Michael Moffat pop up on the line to clear and deny Ton the victory.
14. Tumilty 2. Kilday 4. Buchanan 5. Waddell 3. Iredale
6. Telfer 8. McAlister (c) 12. Tidser
18. Oliver 11. McHugh
Subs used: 19. MacLean (for Telfer, 70).
Subs not used: 10. R. Thomson, 17. Tiffoney, 20. Bell, 25. McKeown, 37. McGrattan, 23. Scully (GK).
Booked: Rose (12), Kerr (85).
Ayr United (442): Doohan; Geggan (Harvie, 78), Bell (c), Rose, Smith; McDaid (Forrest, 90), Murdoch, Kerr, Crawford; Shankland (Moffat, 80), Moore.
Subs not used: McGuffie, Ferguson, Docherty, Hare-Reid (GK).
Booked: Rose (12), Kerr (85).
Sent Off: Moore (61).
Referee: Willie Collum
⭐️ Star Man: Bob McHugh
Image (main): David Bell
Image (inset): Gary Bradley