Murdoch (29) – Demetriou (20), Mallan (46), Sutton (56), MacKenzie (80)
Morton slipped down to fourth in the Ladbrokes Championship last night after a hugely disappointing derby defeat in which they lost 4-1 at home to arch-rivals St Mirren.
Both sides came into the fourth and final county clash of the campaign looking for maximum points in order to meet aspirations that have been shaped by the way the season has unfolded.
For the Ton, that meant picking up the win in order to move above Falkirk into second place as they look to finish as high as possible as well as ultimately nailing down a promotion play-off place.
The Paisley outfit, on the other hand, are battling to stay in the division down at the bottom, and a victory on enemy territory would have proved priceless in that bid, and so it proved as they moved up to eighth with an emphatic triumph.
Jack Ross has overseen a remarkable resurgence since taking the helm in Paisley and it was an almost unrecognisable St Mirren side that took control of the game right from kick-off, punishing a jittery Ton side by taking the lead on 20 minutes.
January recruit Stelios Demetriou was the scorer. Receiving a pass down the inside left as Saints hit the hosts on the counter, he checked inside Michael Doyle and then another home defender before firing back across Derek Gaston into the net.
The momentum was all with the visitors, but there was a major shift just nine minutes later when Jim Duffy’s men equalised against the run of play.
Full-back Doyle found himself in acres of space down the right and squared towards the penalty spot, where Andy Murdoch arrived right on cue to steer a low shot around Billy O’Brien down at the keeper’s left.
It was the former Rangers and Queen of the South midfielder’s first goal for the club and looked like it could have been a pivotal moment in the match as it saw the game seesaw in Ton’s favour.
They could and probably should have edged in front four minutes later, but former Saints loan striker saw his mishit snapshot deflected wide following great work by Gary Oliver tight to the right touchline.
There was a reminder of the threat St Mirren posed before the half was out, though, when Cypriot full-back Demetriou beat an out-of-sorts Mark Russell to a long ball and burst clear. Only a last-ditch intervention by Doyle prevented a sure-fire goal.
However, the wind was truly taken from the Morton sails less than one minute into the second half, playmaker Stevie Mallan finding the net with a searing half-volley that found the bottom-right corner with laser-beam precision.
The Sinclair Street side simply weren’t at the races. They had no answer to St Mirren’s relentless pressing, were beaten to every second ball and posed no real threat to O’Brien’s goal besides an Oliver looping header.
In some respects, it felt as though the game was already over at 2-1, but it was undoubtedly the case when penalty-box predator John Sutton slid in to force Rory Loy’s cross home from close-range to make it three 10 minutes later.
It was an incredibly soft goal to concede, but the fourth was even more disappointing from a home perspective as 6ft 4in defender Gary MacKenzie was allowed to rise unchallenged to head into an empty net after Gaston failed to get to Mallan’s corner.
In a season of very little lows, those of a Ton persuasion – all of whom will be hurting today, from directors, coaching staff and players to fans – will be hoping this was a nadir and that the team can regroup and rally at Raith Rovers on Saturday.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 3. Lamie 17. Russell
8. Forbes 10. Lindsay 21. Murdoch 11. Nesbitt
7. Oliver 16. Shankland
Subs used: 12. Tidser (for Lindsay, 75), and 19. Donnelly (for Shankland, 88).
Subs not used: 2. Kilday, 9. Oyenuga, 14. Scullion, 18. McDonagh, 20. McGowan (gk).
Booked: Oliver (53), Doyle (69), Shankland (86).
St Mirren (442): O’Brien; Irvine, Baird, McKenzie, Demetriou; Maggenis, Mallan (Quinn, 90), McGinn (c), Smith (Todd, 88); Loy (Storie, 84); Sutton.
Subs not used: Gordon, Fjelde, Whyte, Langfield (gk).
Booked: Irvine (45).
Referee: Stephen Finnie
Images: Gary Bradley