Tidser (37), Oliver (90) – Beadling (22)
Gary Oliver scored a last-minute winner against Dunfermline Athletic at Cappielow this afternoon to fire Morton to a third consecutive victory and up into the Ladbrokes Championship promotion play-off places.
Sunderland loanee Tom Beadling marked his Pars debut by opening the scoring, but Michael Tidser hit back with a beautifully taken volley eight minutes before the break.
And just as they had in the Scottish Cup two weeks ago, Jim Duffy’s men struck a fatal blow right at the death, Oliver sweeping home Bob McHugh’s intelligent square pass to snatch all three points.
The forward’s fine finish sparked bedlam on the pitch and in the stands, and meant that the Ton had recorded a hat-trick of successive successes in all competitions.
As he had in the preceding win against the Pars on cup duty and the 3-0 victory away at Dundee United, gaffer Jim Duffy stuck with the same starting XI for the visit of Allan Johnston’s side.
Gary Harkins has been the midfield fulcrum in these outings, and he was first to threaten with a cute free-kick that forced Dunfermline goalkeeper Lee Robinson to plunge down to the right post to claw clear.
The performances of defender Jack Iredale, in particular his dynamic driving runs from left-back, have been a feature of recent outings, and he was posing the Pars problems in the opening stages.
One marauding surge saw the Australian drive deep into enemy territory, causing a buzz around the ground, and stab the ball outside to Oliver, whose deflected shot was easily claimed by Robinson.
Unfortunately for the former Perth Glory kid, however, he didn’t get enough purchase on a clearance from Jason Talbot’s cross from the left.
The miscued clearance broke kindly for Beadling, and he made no mistake, slamming a first-time, side-footed shot into the net off Derek Gaston on 22 minutes to open the scoring.
The East End Park outfit were in control and looking the far more likely side, but in what would prove a pivotal moment in the encounter, Ton equalised somewhat against the run of play eight minutes before the interval.
Harkins floated a free-kick into the box, which Luca Gasparotto headed back across into the danger area to which Oliver reacted by arching back to nod up into the air.
The ball seemed to spin in slow motion as it dropped perfectly for midfielder Tidser to connect with a sweet, left-footed volley that lasered beyond Robinson’s grasp into the bottom-left corner for his third goal of the season.
No sooner had Ton levelled than it appeared as though they’d suffered a major set-back when Nicky Clark met Joe Cardle’s whipped cross with a sublime volley, hooked over his own shoulder into the top-right corner.
It was a sensational finish, one that was reminiscent of David Platt’s goal for England against Belgium at the Italia ’90 World Cup – but the Pars striker was denied his moment of glory by the lineseman’s flag.
Ton have been no strangers to sublime goals of late, with Iredale and Scott Tiffoney netting SPFL Goal of the Month candidates at Tannadice last Saturday.
And Tiffoney was presented with the ball in a similar position to that which he lashed a swerving strike into Harry Lewis’s top corner after Aberdeen loanee Frank Ross cut in off the flank and fed the frontman.
Fancying his chances, the teen wound up for a shot that took a deflection and dipped towards the bottom-right corner, forcing Robinson to drop to his left and flip the ball up and over the bar.
Ton finished the half on the front foot, with Tidser causing havoc with a couple of dangerous deliveries, Harkins sending a glancing header skidding beyond the left post from an inswinging corner in the first instance.
Then, in the final minute, the midfielder – deployed on the right-hand side for the third game – picked out Murdoch with a pin-point cross that he nodded wide of the same upright that Harkins cleared moments earlier.
Dunfermline were quickest out of the traps after the break, and only a superb reaction save, with his chest no less, saw Gaston prevent Clark from finding the net with a bullet header from point-blank range.
That attempt on goal came from a James Craigen corner, and both teams continued to look dangerous from set-pieces, particularly the home side.
In the 56th minute, Gasparotto was denied twice in quick succession from flag-kicks from opposite sides, with his first header pawed over by Robinson before his follow up was blocked on the line.
Clark and then Beadling both passed up glaring opportunities just after the hour following two fine, open play deliveries from Craigen.
For the Ton, Oliver, Ross and Thomas O’Ware, with a neat flick, all forced relatively straigthforward saves from Robinson as the hosts continued to graft and exhaust every avenue in the push for maximum points.
And their will to win was rewarded in the final minute of regulation time when sub striker McHugh forced his way past goalkeeper Robinson and defender Callum Morris as they collided on the edge of the Pars box.
Known for his clinical finishing, McHugh ignored his instincts and showed tremendous composure to look up and square for Oliver to sweep a cool finish high into the net and claim victory in the most dramatic fashion.
6. Doyle 19. Gasparotto 4. O’Ware (c) 26. Iredale
12. Tidser 3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 25. Ross
Subs used: 11. McHugh (for Tidser, 70).
Subs not used: 5. Lamie, 16. Strapp, 17. Russell, 21. Langan, 36. Hynes, 20. Brennan (gk).
Booked: Harkins (88).
Dunfermline (442): Robinson; Williamson, M’voto, Morris (c), Talbot; Craigen, Wedderburn, Beadling, Cardle; McManus, Clark.
Subs not used: Ashcroft, Armstrong, Paton, Ryan, Aird, Vincent, Gill (gk).
Booked: Craigen (51), McManus (72).
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Images: Ross Cameron