SPFL League One: DUNFERMLINE 0 MORTON 4: 28/03/15
SPFL League One: one change- Stuart Urquhart in for Lewis Martin; Stefan McCluskey (45) 0-1; Lee Kilday (50) 0-2; Declan McManus (76) 0-3; Mark Russell (90) 0-4.
The 31st match of the League One campaign saw the return of Morton to East End Park. Not only were the Pars seeking their first win of the season over their Greenock opponents, they also sorely needed to collect the three points if they were going to maintain their challenge to make a play off place in May. With six matches remaining Brechin City started four points ahead of John Potter's side who got themselves back into fifth position with their win at Stenhousemur the previous Saturday.
The Pars showed one enforced change with Lewis Martin being away in Austria on international duty for Scotland U19s Stuart Urquhart came into the starting eleven.
Morton striker Declan McManus started despite playing on Thursday night in Scotland U21s friendly against Hungary in Tatabanya. The 20-year-old had scored five goals in his last six matches for Morton so his ability to recover from the travelling and 45 minutes of a match just 48 hours before was an important boost for Jim Duffy's side. Duffy made one change from the team that grabbed a late win over Ayr United; Sean Crighton replacing Ross Caldwell.
The visitors kicked off and attacked from the off but in third minute Alex Whittle burst through to send the first effort at goal outside the right goalpost. A Ross Millen cross came off the back of an opponent and Thomas O'Ware reacted quickest to clear the danger.
It was still only in sixth minute when Millen's next cross was deflected by Faissal El Bakhtaoui on to Andy Barrowman but his effort went wide right. The former Morton striker appealed for a deflection but referee Crawford Allan saw different. Four minutes later a Millen free kick from 35 yards out created some confusion in the visitors defence but they cleared before the Pars could take advantage.
Twice Kyle McAusland played the ball out to Whittle on the left but on both occasions the defence stopped the cross. Morton pushed up at every opportunity and it was a very open game as the first twenty minutes past. McManus got a header on a long ball but Ryan Scully held with ease.
Then a long throw in 22 minutes was headed straight to McManus but his shot was to end up in the McCathie Stand. Mark Russell sent a cross through the Pars box as Morton began to enjoy greater possession. Stefan McCluskey lifted the ball on to his captain Peter McDonald but his shot trundled wide left of goal.
A 33rd minute corner from Ross Forbes travelled to McDonald at the back post and Scully was forced to fist over his crossbar. The ensuing corner again from the left was defended only as far as Michael Miller and his shot from the edge of the penalty area was well saved by the Pars keeper.
Eight minutes from the break Hopkirk broke on ther left and his delivery was headed on for Geggan but he was not close enough to cash in. A corner was won on the right but Hopkirk's inswinger as met by the defence at the near post.
The East End Park crowd got agitated as the Greenock side had the better territorial advantage and an increasing amount of possession. then in the final minute of the half, McAusland's pass towards EL Bakhtaoui went to Forbes. He advanced on goal and at the 18 yard line Buchanan was faced with trying to stop both him and Stefan McCLUSKEY to his left. The Morton no.7 made no mistake when he was slipped the ball and crashed it past Scully. 0-1
Half Time: Dunfermline 0 Morton 1
When the second half resumed there were chances at both ends. First Hopkirk's diagonal ball towards the far post just evaded Millen and at the other end McCluskey's power down the left put in McMaus but Scully kept him out. Next time however Morton took the chance. A simple cross from the left byeline was met by Lee KILDAY at the back post and with just five minutes of the secondf half on the clock Morton were two up. 0-2
John Potter immediately replaced defender Urquhart with striker Michael Moffat. Dunfermline pushed up and the crowd roared them on as all the action was around the visitor's box. Hopkirk sent in crosses, Millen got around the defence on the right but no one could hit the net. It was all Dunfermline for a while as Morton were pinned back but McManus nearly caught them out on the counterattack and Scully had to make a good save at his near post in 63 minutes.
Just two minutes later Scully pulled off another magnificent save when McDonald tried a shot from 30 yards out that got caught in the strong wind. Morton took the steam out of the Pars challenge and Lewis Allan was brought on in place of Andy Barrowman.
In 76 minutes Forbes ran in from the right and his cut back found McMANUS who buried the ball in the bottom left of the Pars net. 0-3
The final minutes proved no better for the Pars. Hopkirk's shot was easily saved and McManus was unlucky to send the ball out off the left post after Russell had made the break down the left. Moffat had the ball in the net but he was clearly offside.
To polish things off altogether Morton left back Mark RUSSELL whacked a great shot into the top corner. 0-4 and total misery for the Fifers.
No points for Dunfermline then and all eyes then looked elsewhere. Fourth placed Brechin City were held to a 2-2 draw at Ayr, Airdrieonians who defeated Stenhousemuir 2-1 overtook Dunfermline into fifth and the Pars end the day five points off a play off place with five matches remaining.
DUNFERMLINE: Ryan Scully; Gregor Buchanan, Kyle McAusland (Declan O'Kane 80), Stuart Urquhart (Michael Moffat 53); Ross Millen, Josh Falkingham (c), Andy Geggan, David Hopkirk, Alex Whittle; Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Andy Barrowman (Lewis Allan 68).
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Spence, Shaun Byrne, Ryan Thomson, Ryan Goodfellow (GK)
MORTON: Derek Gaston; Lee Kilday, Ricki Lamie, Sean Crighton, Mark Russell; Tom O'Ware,Michael Miller, Ross Forbes, Stefan McCluskey (Stefan Milojevic 80), Declan McManus, Peter MacDonald (c) (Ross Caldwell 71).
SUBS NOT USED: Jamie McCluskey, Jon Scullion, Joe McKee, Nico Caraux (GK).
SCORERS: S McCluskey (45), Kilday (50), McManus (76), Russell (90)
REFEREE: Crawford Allan
WEATHER: Windy 11C
NEXT MATCH: SPFL League One (away) v Peterhead, Saturday 4th April.
3.00pm kick off at Balmoor Stadium
50/50 Half time draw: Winning ticket 142281 won £687
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 22nd April, Dunfermline v Falkirk kick off 3.00pm