St Mirren 1 – 1 Morton
(St Mirren win 6-5 on penalties)
Obika (39) – Maciver (60)
It took a penalty-kick shootout to deny Morton outright victory in a keenly-contested Betfred Cup, Renfrewshire Derby in Paisley on Wednesday night.
In a week when the ‘Ton will play three games in seven days, manager David Hopkin made five changes from the side that lost to Raith Rovers at the weekend. Michael Ledger, Robbie Muirhead, Aidan Nesbitt, Cameron Salkeld and Rabin Omar came in for Kyle Jacobs, Kalvin Orsi, Josh McPake and Gary Oliver plus Jim McAlister, who had lost the appeal against his red card in Fife.
The home side created the first opportunity in 3 minutes when Jon Obika spun in the box and fired a low drive that McAdams was smart to get down to and save.
Experienced defender Richard Tait picked up a yellow card in 13 minutes for an off-the-ball incident, near the touchline, on Lewis Strapp which left the young Morton wing-back on the ground and claiming for a cynical challenge.
McAdams would be called upon again on the quarter-hour mark, impressively pushing away a stinging Morais shot. At this stage the Greenock backline was being tested with a succession of whipped crosses into the box, but they kept their shape and thwarted potential danger.
Cameron Blues then saw yellow for a tackle before the visitors fashioned a half-chance from a Nesbitt corner. Fjortoft appeared to get just under the ball to push a header over the bar.
Saints’ goal arrived six minutes from the break when Obika got up to a McAllister corner and his strong header beat McAdams on his left-hand side.
The ‘Ton gaffer introduced Jacobs for Blues at the start of the second-half and his side certainly started in sprightly fashion, getting the ball down to feet and mastering the conditions whilst looking for openings.
After a well-worked move, Nesbitt had a delightful goal-bound chip from outside the box pushed over by Alnwick.
Strapp was making a nuisance of himself from throw-ins on either side of the pitch and it was from this that the ‘Ton drew level on the hour mark. Ross Maciver had just replaced Nesbitt and as Fjortoft flicked on a header from another Strapp delivery, the striker headed in from the centre of the box. Both Maciver and his team-mates rushed away to celebrate his first goal for the club.
It was no more than David Hopkin’s side deserved and they continued to take the match to their hosts.
A tangle in the box between Salkeld and Alnwick saw the Morton forward receive a yellow card and moments later he set-up Muirhead for a volley that went over the bar. The latter saw another opportunity go above the woodwork from a solid strike before setting up Strapp for a header that just went beyond the left-hand corner.
On 75 minutes, the Morton manager pushed on Gary Oliver and Josh McPake for Muirhead and Salkeld.
Both players brought renewed energy and width to the attack with McPake first having a shot blocked and then enduring the agony of seeing his fine drive go just past the post.
Gary Oliver almost got in on the 86th minute before the home side fought back and McAdams was brought into the action again with another fine save.
Craig McGuffie had, by now, arrived for stand-in skipper Brian McLean as the ‘Ton went for a winner but the game settled at one apiece after 90+3 minutes and we headed for penalty-kicks.
McAdams stopped Dennis’s opener but Kyle Jacobs right-foot shot was also saved. A succession of well-struck penalties found their mark including strikes from Maciver, Omar, McGuffie, Oliver and McGinty for the ‘Ton until the sudden-death shoot-out was completed when Josh McPake could consider himself unlucky to see his shot parried away to the right.
All things considered, it was an absorbing encounter and David Hopkin was keen to point out that he felt his side were the stronger, particularly in the second-half and should have taken full points.
Speaking exclusively to the website he said, “We made some changes and competed well right across the team and should have been at 2-1 looking to make it three against a side in a higher division. I am satisfied that this group of players work very hard for me and I think they showed that to the Morton support tonight.”
It’s now on to Firhill on Saturday for an intriguing clash with Partick Thistle to complete the Group Stages of the competition.
The Club wish to convey their thanks to St Mirren for conducting and paying for the necessary round of Covid-testing as stressed by the official guidelines prior to the match.
Fjortoft McLean McGinty
Ledger Nesbitt Blues Omar Strapp
Subs used: 6. Kyle Jacobs (for Cameron Blues, 45), 23. Ross Maciver (for Aidan Nesbitt, 60), 11. Gary Oliver (for Cameron Salkeld, 75), 25. Josh McPake (for Robbie Muirhead, 75), 15. Craig McGuffie (for Brian McLean, 86)
Unused Subs: Orsi, Lyon, Colville, Wallace
Booked: Cameron Blues (22), Cameron Salkeld (62)
St Mirren: Alnwick, Fraser, McCarthy (McGrath, 77), Shaughnessy, Tait, Foley, Erhahon (Doyle-Hayes, 45), Mason, McAllister (Erwin, 59), Obika (Connolly, 72), Morias (Dennis, 60)
Unused Subs: Finlayson, Flynn, MacPherson, Lyness
Booked: Richard Tait (13)
Referee: Bobby Madden
Image: David Bell