McHugh (50) – Stewart (5)
Morton came from behind to draw 1-1 with Dumbarton at Cappielow this afternoon but were disappointed not to have claimed all three points on home turf after a one-sided second half.
Mark Stewart’s early opener was cancelled out by Bob McHugh’s 50th-minute strike, and, although the remaining 40 minutes saw one-way traffic head towards the Sons goal, keeper Scott Gallacher kept Ton out.
The Sinclair Street side actually claimed three points at Brechin City seven days earlier despite the fact the Glebe Park outfit’s goalie had little to do by comparison with Gallacher.
Manager Jim Duffy pinpointed a need for more flair in the final third in a recent assessment of the first quarter of the league season, and he looked to address this with an extremely attack-minded team selection.
With Michael Tidser ruled out by a groin injury, the Ton boss paired Gary Harkins and Andy Murdoch in the centre of midfield and flanked them with forwards Robert Thomson and Jai Quitongo.
Gary Oliver was restored to the starting line-up after starting on the bench at Brechin and played through the middle alongside McHugh for the third time this term.
But before Ton could find their rhythm and establish any real attacking momentum, they found themselves trailing to what amounted to a very poor goal from a defensive perspective.
In the fifth minute, Mark Russell and then Derek Gaston failed to deal with Tom Walsh’s low cross from the left, and Stewart took full advantage by wriggling between the grounded duo before rolling into the empty net.
The hosts were rocked, and they were left counting their blessings on eight minutes when Cypriot wideman Dimitris Froxylias’ sweetly struck volley from a Craig Barr nod down just cleared Gaston’s crossbar.
It took until around the 20-minute mark for Morton to steady following that nervy start, as Harkins gradually began to see more of the ball in the middle of the park.
With Ross Forbes on the bench, the 32-year-old midfielder shouldered set-piece responsibilities, and he forced Gallacher into his first save of the afternoon just before the half hour.
Stepping up 25 yards out slightly to the left of centre, he curled an accurate effort over the defensive well, prompting one fan to celebrate prematurely, but Gallacher managed to dive across and claim at his right post.
The final five minutes of the first half offered a taste of what would transpire in the second period, with Morton piling on the pressure only to be met by a wall of resistance from Stevie Aitken’s side.
On 41 minutes, Sons skipper Andy Dowie made a vital block, seemingly appearing from nowhere to prevent McHugh’s swept shot from nestling in the net – an outcome that seemed inevitable the second it left his boot.
Goalkeeper Gallacher then kept Jai Quitongo out in the last minute, dropping to his right to smother the striker’s angled drive after Harkins’ had sent him racing clear with a pitching-wedge pass over the top.
It was quickly apparent a more purposeful Morton had appeared for the second half, and they were back on level terms within five minutes of the restart.
Oliver, a worthy recipient of the sponsors’ man of the match award, slipped a neat pass down the inside-right channel ahead of fox in the box McHugh.
Ton’s top scorer was on to the ball in a flash and chopped a first-time shot across his body and beyond the advancing Gallagher and inside the left post, taking his tally to six for the season.
The equaliser set up a second-half onslaught. The hunt for a winner would, however, prove fruitless. Thanks in no small part to Gallacher’s display between the sticks.
Not for the first time – he also performed admirably on the opening day of the season and in Alloa colours two seasons ago – the 28-year-old shot-stopper frustrated the Ton.
He made relatively straightforward saves to deny goalscorer McHugh and Oliver shortly after the equaliser, as well as looking on as Ricki Lamie launched a rocket that just failed to find its target.
However, it was after the introduction of Forbes, on the bench for the first time since the opening-day Betfred Cup tie at Berwick Rangers, that Gallacher truly earned his corn.
In the space of three minutes, he was required to brush the midfielder’s dipping free-kick over the bar with his fingertips and then beat back a powerful swerving strike with both hands.
The save of the game, though, arrived 11 minutes from time when he showed lighting reactions to repel a violent Lamie piledriver, struck with venom from around seven yards after Oliver touched into his path.
Morton continued to push hard in the final 10 minutes, but the goal would not come and they were forced to settle for a share of the spoils against a stubborn and resilient Dumbarton.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 17. Russell
9. Quitongo 14. Harkins 3. Murdoch 10. Thomson
11. McHugh 7. Oliver
Subs used: 8. Forbes (for Thomson, 64) and 15. Tiffoney (for McHugh, 87).
Subs not used: 21. Langan, 22. Armour, 23. Barr, 20. Doohan (gk).
Booked: Harkins (72), Lamie (74).
Dumbarton (4141): Gallacher; Wardrop, Dowie (c), Hill, McLaughlin; Barr; Froxylias (Morrison, 71), Hutton, Wilson, Walsh (Gallagher, 82); Stewart (Roy, 82)
Subs not used: Johnston, Prior, Ewings (gk).
Referee: Barry Cook
Images (main and inset): David Bell
Image (inset): Gary Bradley