Match Report: Morton 3-2 Dunfermline


Greenock_Morton_FC_logoMorton 3 – 2 Dunfermline

Thomson (47), Harkins (73), Quitongo (90+3)  – Cardle (9), Higginbotham (33 pen)


Morton staged a remarkable second-half revival to come back from 2-0 down and beat league leaders Dunfermline Athletic 3-2 at Cappielow this afternoon.

An early Joe Cardle strike and a Kallum Higginbotham penalty seemingly had the Pars on easy street as they went in at the interval holding a two-goal advantage.

But Robert Thomson scored to ignite a sensational fightback that saw Gary Harkins equalise with a sublime free-kick before fellow sub Jai Quitongo sparked bedlam in the stands by scoring an injury-time winner.

By his own admission in a recent interview with the club media, matchwinner Quitongo felt he hadn’t quite been living up to his own high standards this season.

Manager Jim Duffy made the decision to name the Scotland Under-21 cap as a substitute and bring Gary Oliver in for his first league start of the season in the only change to the team that lost to Livingston a fortnight earlier.

The Ton made a hugely positive start to the afternoon as they attempted to rectify that reverse, and should have edged in front on four minutes, but Andy Murdoch skewed Thomson’s low cross over the top from six yards.

Yet, it was the visitors who would take the lead against the run of play on nine minutes when Cardle sliced through down the inside left like a hot knife through butter and slotted under Gaston from an acute angle.

The tide turned thereafter, and Higginbotham went close with a header on the stretch before Nicky Clark dragged a shot wide from 25 yards out.

Dunfermline’s sustained pressure paid off again with the award of a penalty on 31 minutes, referee Kevin Clancy adjudging Ross Forbes to have connected with Jason Talbot’s face as he attempted to hook clear.

Talbot appeared to stoop quite low to meet the ball rather than Forbes being high, but the left-back was forced off with a cut forehead, and most on the Ton bench agreed it was a spot-kick.

Higginbotham took charge from 12 yards and whipped the ball across his body towards the bottom-left corner. Although Gaston got two hands to the strike, he couldn’t prevent it from finishing in the back of the net.

Game on … Thomson rushes back to the halfway line after making it 2-1                  © David Bell

The goal meant Morton went in the break with a mountain to climb – but scale the peak they did by scoring three times in the coming 45 minutes to topple the side sat at the Ladbrokes Championship summit.

Of vital import was the early goal scored by Thomson, who pounced on Callum Morris’s short headed backpass and tucked a calm finish under Sean Murdoch within two minutes of the restart.

It was the former Sons striker’s fourth goal of the season in all competitions, bringing him level with Bob McHugh as Ton’s joint-top Ton scorer. Most importantly, it meant GAME ON.

Only a smart Murdoch save when he plunged down to his left to push clear Michael Tidser’s cute right-footed curler, prevented the hosts from restoring parity by the 56th minute.

Whilst Morton looked capable of clawing it back, the momentum fully shifted in their favour with a game-defining Duffy double substitution on 63 minutes.

The Cappielow gaffer sent on Quitongo and Harkins for McHugh and Forbes, and within 10 minutes of the duo entering the field of play, the scores were tied at 2-2.

Greenock-born Harkins drew his local team level in sensational style, showing absolute mastery of the sphere by floating a free-kick over the wall and dropping it inside left post from 20 yards.

Cowshed acclaim … Harkins accepts the supporters’ adulation after his sublime set-piece        © Gary Bradley

It was a moment of magic that set up a frantic finale in which both sides refused to settle for a share of the spoils and went all out to win it.

Goalkeeper Gaston did his bit on 76 minutes by beating out a Cardle snapshot after the winger had checked inside onto his right foot.

At the other end, Quitongo flicked over the top from inside the six-yard box – unsuccessfully claiming the last touch came off a defender – after Michael Doyle had knocked Harkins’ clipped cross back into the middle.

And it was from a Dunfermline corner that Morton would launch the stinging counter-attack that saw them complete a miraculous comeback and claim all three points right at the death.

Sub Connor McManus hit Quitongo with a long clearance that required the 19-year-old to attempt to control whilst simulataneously showing impressive strength to hold off the attentions of the last defender.

The Pars player bounced off the Ton No.9, who scooped the ball round the corner and turned on the afterburners before slowing and slipping the ball under Murdoch and into the net despite a touch from the goalkeeper.

Quitongo ripped off his shirt during a wild celebration that was mirrored in the stands in response to a dramatic denoument that will live long in the collective memory.

Morton (442)

1. Gaston
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 17. Russell
8. Forbes 3. Murdoch 12. Tidser 10. Thomson
7. Oliver 11. McHugh

Subs used: 14. Harkins (for Forbes, 63), 9. Quitongo (for McHugh, 63), and 18. McManus (for Oliver, 82).

Subs not used: 15. Tiffoney. 21. Langan, 22. Armour, 20. Doohan (gk).

Booked: Forbes (32), McManus (89), O’Ware (90+1), Quitongo (90+3).

Dunfermline (442): Murdoch; Williamson, Morris (c), Ashcroft, Talbot (Martin, 38); Higginbotham, Shiels, Wedderburn, Cardle; McManus (Smith, 66), Clark (Hopkirk, 73).

Subs not used: Mvoto, Splaine, Ryan, Gill (gk).

Booked: Higginbotham (59).

Referee: Kevin Clancy

Attendance: 1,918


Image (main and inset): David Bell

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Image (inset): Gary Bradley

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