Substitute Jai Quitongo curled home in the 85th minute at East End Park to dump the Fifers out of the cup. The Ton have this afternoon been drawn against Peterhead or Dumbarton at Cappielow in the Fifth Round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The sides came in to the match yesterday in contrasting fashion; the Pars had been unbeaten in 4, while, Jim Duffy’s men came into the match on the back of a 1-0 home loss to Falkirk.
Dunfermline remained unchanged in the starting eleven for this match, but, the bench did have a full compliment of players on it this week. Lee Ashcroft and Callum Smith returned from illness to regain their places within the match-day squad while James Craigen also entered the bench since signing from Falkirk on Friday morning.
Morton, on the other hand, were forced into switches for this all-Championship tie. Ricki Lamie and Robert Thomson missed the match through injury, being replaced by Luca Gasporotto and new loan signing Frank Ross. Bob McHugh and Mark Russell also missed out, dropping to the bench, to be replaced by Andy Murdoch and Jack Iredale.
Gary Harkins had the first chance of the match, with the experienced midfielder picking up the ball at the edge of the area following a corner but the number 14 fired wide of target after being put under pressure.
Declan McManus made a strong run to the left and after cutting inside, the former Aberdeen striker hit a good shot to the keepers left but Derek Gaston done well to push it away from goal. Dean Shiels was on hand to pick up the scraps but his low cut-back was scrambled off the line despite Nicky Clark attempting to tap home for the opener.
Clark was in the midst of the action again as the Pars marksmen saw another chance go abegging. This time, Joe Cardle drifted from the left to the right and after making space for himself, his left-footed cross was flicked on by Clark but the ex-Rangers man couldn’t direct his header on target.
After being terrorised by Ryan Williamson’s marauding runs in the opening minutes, it was left-back Jack Iredale who decided to have a go himself as he drove down the line. Firstly, his low cross teased the Dunfermline backline but the Fifers got away with it as Scott Tiffoney failed to convert.
Then, seconds later, the former Queen’s Park loanee tried a similar delivery which Gary Oliver flicked on at the near post. Goalkeeper Lee Robinson was beating but Morton were denied by the frame of the goal as the ball bounced to safety.
The goal that looked to be coming in the cup-tie eventually came just over midway through the opening period. Oliver was found inside the area and the 22-year-old remained calm to slam the ball across goal and past Robinson to open the scoring for Duffy’s men.
Allan Johnston’s side continued to play calmly and once again found Williamson down the right. His low cross found Cardle 12 yards out but the winger dragged his shot wide of target, as the Morton defence cleared the danger away.
The second half was just as frantic with both sides remaining in a positive frame of mind heading into the final 45 minutes of the tie.
The first shot of the final period came through youngster Tiffoney but his right-footed effort took a deflection off the sliding Callum Morris; the Pars’ captain’s touch took the power out of the shot as it spun harmlessly into the grateful arms of Robinson.
McManus managed to work space for himself at the edge of the area on 57 minutes: the former Morton loanee fired in to draw the game level, despite the best efforts of Gaston to keep the shot out. With just over half an hour remaining, the match was in the balance.
Clark came the closest he had all afternoon when he forced Gaston into an absolutely fantastic reflex save from close-range. Michael Paton delivered an outswinging corner which the striker helped on towards goal – after the ball was tipped away, a scramble ensued inside the 6-yard area but Dunfermline couldn’t profit.
The momentum then swung to the visitors as firstly Michael Tidser curled an effort narrowly wide from the right before Robinson was forced into action again. After palming away an effort, he saw Murdoch miscue his shot from Oliver’s cross, as the ball ended up in the Norrie McCathie stand behind the goal.
Kallum Higginbotham and James Craigen were brought on to try give some fresh legs and a new impetus heading into the final stages of this encounter, but, Johnston’s men were lucky not to be 2-1 down.
A header was heading towards the Pars net following a corner on the right but Duffy’s side were denied by a top drawer stop by Robinson, as he stooped low to his right.
Clark fired over the bar before M’Voto had a header of his own which was saved by Gaston before clutching the rebound from McManus.
Jai Quitongo was on by this point and the striker, having just returned from a knee injury, was trying to use his pace to unsettle the tiring backline of the Fifers. And that is what happened with just 5 minutes of normal time left.
Oliver broke free and as Quitongo peeled left, he was picked out by his team-mate; the Morton number 9 turned onto his favoured right-foot and despite being faced by the intimidating figure of Jean-Yves M’Voto, the substitute curled the ball through the legs of the Frenchman and into the far corner past Robinson. The goalkeeper’s best effort could only see the Sunderland-born shot-stopper getting a touch, but not one of significance as the ball squirmed away from the grasp of the number 25 to nestle into the bottom corner of the net.
Despite pushing M’Voto up front and going route one, Jonhston’s side go out in Round 4 while Duffy’s men advance to the next round, where they will be grateful of a home tie.
Speaking after the match, the Morton gaffer said:
“It is a fantastic result – I thought it was a fascinating cup-tie. I think there was a lot of goalmouth incidents and saves. We had a couple cleared off the line from Thomas O’Ware and then Jack Iredale. Derek Gaston has made a few great saves while in between there were 3 fantastic goals. I am looking at it from our point of view and I thought ours, especially, were great. It was good to get the win, but, the most important thing in these cup-ties is that you are in the hat for the next round and thankfully we are.
I was a bit surprised as well [when Jai Quitongo’s goal went in]. We know that Jai has got a real talent; he’s strong, he’s quick, but, he’s had a stop-start season in terms of games: you can see he is struggling a little bit with his fitness and he was having to work back and then get up the pitch; he is an explosive player. He only turned 20 about 6 weeks ago, so there is a lot of potential. I thought Gary Oliver was terrific up front this afternoon alongside Scott Tiffoney – who is another teenager. We changed it around a little bit, but thankfully it worked out well for us in the end.”
On the contrary, Allan Johnston felt his side had done enough to win:
“At the goal they scored, there were shouts for offside. It must have been very tight, but, it was hard to tell. It was disappointing to lose a goal in the first-half, but, credit to the players, I thought they battled back in the second-half to get a hold of the game again. We scored a really good goal through Declan McManus. We were on the ascendency at this point, so, we are obviously disappointed to lose the second goal in the manner that we did.
Joe Cardle’s had an incredible chance and I don’t know how the keeper has kept Nicky’s header out. It was an incredible save. We got into some really, really, good areas and I thought Ryan Williamson was incredible at times, getting forward and putting really good crosses into the box; they defended really well and we have to take our chances when they come along. This might sound like a hard luck story, but, their first goal we are saying was probably very close to offside and the second one was potentially a free-kick on Nat [Wedderburn]. They are big decisions, but, at the end of the day, we have to take our chances as well. When they come along, we have to make sure we are scoring them, as well.”
FULL-TIME: Dunfermline Athletic 1-2 Greenock Morton
25. Lee Robinson
2. Ryan Williamson
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
14. Jason Talbot
15. Michael Paton
27. Dean Shiels (James Craigen 66’)
8. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle (Kallum Higginbotham 66’)
9. Declan McManus
10. Nicky Clark
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
6. Lee Ashcroft
7. Kallum Higginbotham
16. Andy Ryan
17. Fraser Aird
23. Callum Smith
28. James Craigen
1. Derek Gaston
6. Michael Doyle
19. Luca Gasporotto
4. Thomas O’Ware (Captain)
26. Jack Iredale
12. Michael Tidser
14. Gary Harkins
3. Andy Murdoch
25. Frank Ross (Jai Quitongo 65’)
15. Scott Tiffoney (Mark Russell 90’)
7. Gary Oliver (Bob McHugh 90’)
20. Conor Brennan (GK)
9. Jai Quitongo
11. Bob McHugh
16. Lewis Strapp
17. Mark Russell
21. Ruaridh Langan
30. Darren Hynes
Referee: Alan Muir