McHugh (41) – S. Brown (27)
Morton and Peterhead will do it all over again on Tuesday night in a replay at Balmoor following this afternoon’s 1-1 draw at Cappielow in the third round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The Ton were held to a home draw by an undaunted Blue Toon side sat second in League Two in what was to prove another pronounced fluctation in form from one game to next.
Jonatan Johansson’s side had followed up a disappointing home defeat against Alloa Athletic with a much-improved goalless draw away at Championship league leaders Ayr United seven days earlier.
The Greenock gaffer made just one enforced change to the team that picked up a point at Somerset, bringing Rory McKeown in for Kerr Waddell after the centre-half had struggled with a back problem through the week.
And they made a positive start to tie, with visiting goalkeeper Greg Fleming doing well to paw Michael Tidser’s angled effort across goal and push Gary Oliver’s stinging drive around the right post inside the first 15 minutes.
Jim McInally’s men had early opportunities, too, but it was somewhat against the run of play when they opened the scoring in the 27th minute.
Ross County loanee Ryan Dow showed an excellent turn of pace to surge to the right bye-line and pick out Scott Brown with a precise pull-back that the midfielder expertly swept across Derek Gaston and inside the post.
A shell-shocked Morton were rocked back on their heels, and Reghan Tumilty was required to head clear on the right-hand post after Willie Gibson fizzed over a flat, inswinging corner that took a flick at the front post.
Skipper Jim McAlister attempted to rally the troops and demanded more aggression from those in red tartan, given a rare outing on Sinclair Street due to the fact both Peterhead kits clashed with Ton’s home strip.
They answered the captain’s call by equalising four minutes before the break through Bob McHugh’s eighth goal of the campaign, which nudged him in front of Tidser at the top of the club’s scoring charts.
Australian left wing-back Jack Iredale made an assertive burst to the bye-line, reached the ball just before it ran out of play and fired at the near post, where McHugh arrived right on cue to bullet a textbook header into the net.
The striker, who now has five goals on his last seven matches, has been a rejuvenated figure this season after a maiden Morton campaign compromised by niggling injuries.
Midfielder McAlister’s situation this season has been comparible, with the 33-year-old playing through an ongoing stomach complaint, one that would ultimately curtail his afternoon.
Unable to come back out for the second half, McAlister was replaced by returning vice captain Chris Millar, who had made the bench after three weeks out with a groin injury.
The second half didn’t quite go according to plan. Morton struggled to make much impression in the final third and rarely looked like finding the goal required to secure safe passage to the next stage of the tournament.
Peterhead were unyielding in their bid to stage an upset, as demonstrated by Jamie Stevenson halting an attack by wiping out Oliver with a crude challenge that saw the forward forced off with a suspected broken collarbone.
Right wing-back Tumilty tested Fleming with a powerful run and thumping rising drive that required a smart save before McHugh nodded a Robert Thomson cross inches wide deep into stoppage time.
But those were the only real attempts on goal in a lacklustre second half that leaves Ton requiring a midweek win in the far north east in order to secure a trip to East Fife in the next round.
2. Kilday 4. Buchanan 25. McKeown
14. Tumilty 6. Telfer 8. McAlister (c) 12. Tidser 3. Iredale
11. McHugh 18. Oliver
Subs used: 7. Millar (for McAlister, 46), and 10. R. Thomson (for Oliver, 60)
Subs not used: 5. Waddell, 22. Armour, 28. Purdue, 37. McGrattan, 23. Scully (gk).
Booked: Tidser (74).
Peterhead (442): Fleming; Stevenson, J. Brown, Dunlop, Boyle; Dow, S. Brown, Gibson, Leitch (Ferry, 67); Lyle (McLean, 67), McAllister (c) (Kavanagh, 75).
Subs not used: Eadie, Home, Gibson (gk).
Booked: Gibson (41), Lyle (41), Stevenson (59), McAllister (66), Kavanagh (83).
Referee: Mike Roncone
⭐️ Star Man: Bob McHugh
Images: Gary Bradley