Ladbrokes Championship: Morton 1 Dunfermline 1: 05/10/19
An injury time equaliser denied the Pars all three points as Jim McAlister cancelled out Andy Ryan’s opener.
There are few feelings worse in football than conceding a critical goal deep into stoppage time. In truth, a draw may be a fair result on the balance of play in a game that was poor for long stretches, before coming to life late on, but having taken a late lead, the Pars will be sickened at their failure to see the game out.
Stevie Crawford made one change for the visit to the Tail of the Bank with Beadling starting in place of McCann, who dropped out altogether. That meant a basic 4-4-2 with the now settled back five of Comrie, Ashcroft, Martin and Edwards in front of Gill, Dow on the right of midfield with Beadling, Cochrane and Turner operating centrally, and Kiltie in a more advanced station alongside Nisbet.
Andy Ryan was back on the bench, with the experienced Scully and Devine, Stuart Morrison and Josh Coley. There was a rare appearance for Bowman and a first appearance at this level for young Cameron Graham.
There was some initial confusion taking the field as half the Pars went to one end and the other half the other end, before everyone was called back to the centre circle to participate in a minute’s applause to honour the memory of Joe Mason, ‘Ton’s prolific scorer from the late sixties and early seventies.
Lee Ashcroft won the toss and chose to attack the empty Wee Dublin End, with Morton kicking off and winning an early corner that was eventually defended.
This initial promise soon dissipated – a congested midfield meant neither team could generate any threat and the only noteworthy event was the slightly farcical sight of the referee, having stopped play due to a knock to Beadling, running half the length of the field to retrieve the ball from Gill, only to give it him back immediately as an uncontested drop ball.
Gill was more seriously tested in 20 minutes, if only to clutch Aidan Nesbitt’s free-kick under his crossbar. However, Morton should have taken the lead midway through the half, when they broke on the right through Nesbitt and although Gill batted away his cross, it was only as far as Millar, who seemed certain to score, only for Beadling to make an amazing goal-line clearance.
After 32 minutes the Pars finally registered a shot through Beadling, although it was instantly blocked, after Kiltie’s neat back-heel allowed Dow to reach the bye-line and cross.
Sam Ramsbottom in the Morton goal was much more concerned a little later when a lovely turn by Cochrane allowed Turner the space to advance and his shot from 25 yards was deflected narrowly wide, with the Morton keeper scrambling helplessly.
With the half drawing to an end there was a late scare when McAlister’s header from a corner flashed wide. The Morton captain hadn’t scored in three seasons; with hindsight, this may have been a warning.
Half time: Morton 0 Dunfermline 0
With dark clouds looming over the Cowal peninsula, it was the home team who started the second period the brighter. In 56 minutes Cochrane was caught in possession by McAlister and although Martin initially intercepted his pass to Nesbitt, he too lost possession allowing the last named free to shoot from the angle, but Gill beat the ball away.
Two minutes later the Pars were again under pressure and tried to play the ball out of defence, only to get caught again; this time the ball deflected to Blues but Ashcroft put his body in the way, blocking the shot which then deflected off Martin and behind for a corner.
Just on the hour mark, the home team had another chance when McHugh laid the ball back to McAlister who worked the ball onto his left foot but his effort from the edge of the box flew wide.
The Pars had struggled to make inroads into Morton’s half of the pitch in the second period, and when Kiltie stumbled over the ball on a rare foray up the park, it was apparent that changes would be made and Ryan came on for the former Killie star.
Five minutes later the Pars put together their first decent move of the match. Dow retrieved the ball from his own box and found Ryan in the middle of the park; his incisive pass played in Nisbet, but Ramsbottom was off his line fast to block. Martin then had a close-range effort blocked when the ball fell to him from a corner.
It seemed that one goal would win it or lose it– the Pars won two consecutive corners after 77 minutes, one from each side. From the second Ryan swivelled onto Martin’s knock-down but couldn’t find the target. Then with 83 minutes on the clock, Morton had the ball in the net, as Edwards turned Nesbitt’s dangerous cross past his own keeper, but he had been helped on his way by a push from the substitute Salkeld and the goal was disallowed.
Cochrane, who had seen plenty of the ball in the first half, but had tired, was replaced by Morrison as it seemed the Pars would settle for one point. Then lo and behold, they took the lead.
Turner, who had moved wider to the left got the ball and sent in an early and deep cross that was beyond Nisbet but retrieved by Dow. His return ball was nodded down by Nisbet and Ramsbottom spilled the ball, with RYAN on hand to score from close in.
Morton threw everyone forward in search of an equaliser. Beadling seemed to be fouled trying to shepherd the ball out of play and conceded a corner. From the dead-ball there was a scramble, but Gill threw himself into fray and grabbed hold of the loose ball.
After Ramsbottom had again struggled to save a long-range Ryan effort from a breakaway, the home team attacked in numbers and Nesbitt nearly caught Gill off guard with a shot from the touchline, which the Dunfermline custodian touched over his bar at the last second.
Up came Ramsbottom for this, but the corner was defended and with 93 minutes having now been played it seemed that that must be that. But the referee allowed play to continue, the ball was thrown in the box one last time, was deflected into the path of MCALISTER and his header ended up beyond the despairing dive of Gill. A cruel way to end the game.
For much of this game, a goalless draw seemed likely, only for the game to come to life in the last 20 minutes. It’s not clear where the referee found the extra four minutes of stoppage time from, and the Pars must count themselves unlucky, having taken the lead, not to hold on to it.
MORTON: Sam Ramsbottom: Stephen Welsh, Peter Grant, Kyle Jacobs, Chris Millar (John Sutton 81), Jim McAlister (C), Aidan Nesbitt, Bob McHugh, Cameron Blues (Reece Lyon 71), Luca Colville (Cameron Salkeld 78), Jack Baird
SUBS NOT USED: Brian McLean, Robbie Muirhead, Billy King, Danny Rogers (GK)
SCORERS: McAlister (90+4)
YELLOW CARD: Grant (55), Blues (64), Welsh (90+5)
DUNFERMLINE: Cammy Gill: Aaron Comrie, Lee Ashcroft, Lewis Martin, Josh Edwards: Ryan Dow, Tom Beadling, Harry Cochrane (Stuart Morrison 86), Kyle Turner: Greg Kiltie (Andy Ryan 66), Kevin Nisbet.
SUBS NOT USED: Danny Devine, Matty Bowman, Josh Coley, Cammy Graham, Ryan Scully (GK)
SCORERS: Ryan (87)
YELLOW CARD: Cochrane (24)
REFEREE: Graham Beaton
WEATHER: Showery 12C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Ayr United, Saturday 19th October 2019, 3.00pm kick off at East End Park