Delighted Morton manager Jim Duffy said his team were close to being back to their best as they defeated Dunfermline Athletic at Cappielow yesterday to register their first league win of the season.
Teenage frontman Jai Quitongo scored with six minutes remaining to seal an important and deserved 2-1 victory after Gary Oliver’s opener was cancelled out by a Nicky Clark leveller.
Not only was it the Sinclair Street side’s maiden Ladbrokes Championship success of the campaign, but it was also their first triumph since beating Hamilton Accies in the Betfred Cup on Tuesday 9 August.
And pleased Ton boss Duffy felt his players recaptured some of that early season form against the Pars yesterday following a run of three successive defeats in which he confessed they had been off the pace.
He told gmfc.net: “I thought it was a very good game; I thought that both teams really went for the victory, and credit to Dunfermline for doing that – they didn’t come and camp and try and play for a point.
“They came and tried to win the game and that made it a very open match. There was plenty of balls round about the box, plenty of crosses.
“From our point of view, we’re delighted. We’ve not been at our best in the last couple of weeks, but today I thought we were certainly a lot closer to it. The energy levels were terrific and it was a good team performance. It was a lot more like us.
“Even if it would have finished 1-1, I would have taken a lot of pluses from today’s game – but thankfully we got the three points, and I think we just edged it.
“That depends on what camp you’re in; I’m sure Allan [Johnston] will think they were a bit unfortunate. But I’m only really looking at my team, and we had a good few chances and shots at goal, could have had a penalty, got crosses into the box …
“Generally speaking I thought there was a lot to be pleased about. We got the nod on the three points today and in a tight, tight division it’s an important three points for us. That was the icing on the cake.”
The Ton have suffered something of defensive crisis as of late due to a plethora of injuries and suspensions, and their woes were added to in the first half when skipper Lee Kilday was forced off after going over his ankle.
Duffy added: “I think Lee has damaged his ankle ligaments – his ankle is like a balloon and we’ll have to wait until it settles down to see – and that’s a huge blow for us, obviously with Ricki [Lamie] being out as well.
“Lee has been terrific for us. This season he has shown great character and leadership qualities, especially last week when he was really struggling at Ayr but wouldn’t come off.
“Today, we already had Jamie McDonagh at right-back – he’s a forward but we thought he has pace and is decent in the air and tried it at training and it looked okay – and Michael Doyle at left-back.
“Then we lose a goal not long after Lee gets injured. It’s understandable that players can sometimes feel sorry for themselves in those circumstances. But they didn’t today. They kept at it and got the win.”
Gavin Gunning was brought to the club in response to those mounting problems and the Cappielow gaffer was impressed by the 25-year-old’s commanding debut.
He said: “Gavin was excellent, especially for a boy who’s not played any regular football for a good number of months. When a team is going to put balls in the box, you need someone who’s aggressive and gets himself in good positions.
“And when we put Thomas O’Ware back in there too, I wasn’t overly concerned with those type of plays to be honest because those two are as good as anybody at going and attacking the ball.”
At the opposite end, Duffy was thrilled to see his strike pairing of Quitongo and Oliver both get their names on the scoresheet, adding: “Jai and Gary both scored with terrific finishes, and I’m probably more pleased for those two than anybody.
“They’re young players and in this unforgiving league you sometimes forget that Jai was only 19 a couple of days ago and Gary is only 21, so I was delighted for those two boys.
“They ran their socks off and there was nothing left at the end. Jai was actually thinking ‘Oh no’ when he saw the substitute board going up with Gary’s number on it at the end! But every player gave everything today and they got their reward.”
Images: David Bell