Dunfermline Athletic and Greenock Morton were unable to be separated in the SPFL Ladbrokes Championship last night after a 1-1 draw at East End Park.
Both sides had depleted squads, with neither manager able to fully fill his substitutes bench. Allan Johnston had Kallum Higginbotham and Declan McManus suspended while the Ton were missing key figures such as Jai Quitongo and Michael Tidser.
Fraser Aird and Andy Ryan made rare appearances for the hosts while ex-Morton defender and newly-signed loanee Luca Gasporotto got an immediate start since he arrived on an emergency temporary transfer from Falkirk. Thomas O’Ware also returned after injury, which meant winger Scott Tiffoney and Under-20’s coach Darren Barr dropped down to the bench.
It was Dunfermline who were doing most of the early pressurising and they were to fire in the first shot at goal, too. Ryan won a free-kick on the edge of the area in an inviting position but Derek Gaston was up to the task, palming away Nicky Clark’s curling effort.
Nat Wedderburn and Joe Cardle tangled in the middle of the park: with the Pars pair having bumped into each other, it gave easy possession to the visitors 25-yards out and this caused panic as Andy Murdoch forced his namesake in the Pars goal into a low diving stop. After the keeper had parried the effort, Lee Ashcroft was on hand to sweep the ball away to safety.
Johnston’s side were to find the opener though. A flowing move forward found Clark – who had peeled to the left. His low ball into the area picked out the unmarked Aird and when he tried to pull it across goal for Ryan, it was cut out by Lamie. Unfortunately for Jim Duffy’s men, it ricocheted off Gasporotto and into the path of Ryan who was never going to miss from close range.
Dean Shiels and Fraser Aird were next to have a shots at goal for the Pars as a second goal looked likely, but, it was the visitors who equalised just 12 minutes later. A fast-break down the Ton’s right found Michael Doyle unmarked. He drove into the space and played a neat ball into the near post; Callum Morris slid in and blocked Gary Oliver’s initial striker but the Pars captain couldn’t do anything to help save his side from there on in as the Morton number 7 slammed home the rebound to send the small band of away supporters into raptures.
Panic ensued in the defensive line of Dunfermline again on 40 minutes as goalkeeper Sean Murdoch was put under pressure by a poor back-pass. After being forced out of his area and leaving the goal unguarded, the experienced shot-stopper ‘took one for the team’ by sliding in and conceding a free-kick. He also picked up a yellow card for his troubles too.
The resultant set-piece saw Harkins float the ball up and it landed in the back of the net via a deflection. However, the offside flag had already been raised and the effort was disallowed as the teams went in at the break all square.
The opening 15 minutes of the second-period were a non-event with neither side creating anything clear-cut. The closest anyone came in that time was a Fraser Aird free-kick from distance which grazed the side-netting as it drifted wide of Gaston’s goal.
The Ton back three were holding out strong as they put their bodies on the line. Firstly, Jason Talbot made a fabulous mazy run from left to right before hitting a shot which was beaten away before strikers Ryan and Clark had efforts blocked also.
Aird was causing issues down the right with his pace and directness and he looked favourite to score as he entered the penalty area but as the Canadian international set himself to shoot, he slipped on the wet surface at East End Park, which made the save a lot easier for Gaston to make.
With time running out, Morton made the first substitution of the evening with Robert Thomson coming on for the quiet Bob McHugh. The former Dunfermline striker almost made his former employers pay, as he forced Murdoch into a fantastic reaction save from a diving header after a great delivery from the right-hand side.
Andy Ryan fired over before late substitute Michael Paton fired two efforts wide from the left-side of the box. There was no separating the pair in the final stages as the game ended all-square.
It wasn’t a match of great quality, but, both teams deserved something out of the match. The Pars jump up to third in the rankings, ahead of Livingston on goal-difference, while Morton remain in a healthy position in the middle of the pack, just five points off the promotion play-off spots.
FULL-TIME: Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Greenock Morton
1. Sean Murdoch
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
17. Fraser Aird
27. Dean Shiels
8. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle (Michael Paton 83’)
10. Nicky Clark (Callum Smith 90’)
16. Andy Ryan
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
3. Lewis Martin
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
13. Aaron Splaine
15. Michael Paton
23. Callum Smith
1. Derek Gaston
19. Luca Gasporotto
4. Thomas O’Ware (Captain)
5. Ricki Lamie
6. Michael Doyle
14. Gary Harkins (Scott Tiffoney 83’)
3. Andy Murdoch
8. Ross Forbes
17. Mark Russell
7. Gary Oliver
11. Bob McHugh (Robert Thomson 68’)
20. Ross Doohan (GK)
10. Robert Thomson
15. Scott Tiffoney
21. Ruaridh Langan
22. Ben Armour
23. Darren Barr
Referee: Stephen Finnie