ROWAN Vine scored his first goals for Morton as the reserves ran out 3-2 winners over Airdrie’s second string at the Excelsior Stadium last night.
With their original league fixture scheduled for tomorrow cancelled due to Dumbarton’s progress in the Scottish Cup, manager Kenny Shiels took the opportunity to field what was virtually a first-team.
The likes of Darren Cole, Scott Taggart, Dougie Imrie, Barrie McKay, Garry O’Connor and Vine all started as the Cappielow club lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. It was reserve regulars Aidan Fulton and Thomas O’Ware who were at the heart of the opening goal, however, with defender O’Ware heading home Fulton’s dangerous whipped corner on six minutes.
Although the Diamonds also played a relatively strong side, including Jamie Bain, Grant Evans, Lewis Coult and Nathan Blockley, Ton were proving far too strong in every department.
And former Hibs forward Vine, pictured, doubled their advantage four minutes later, bagging the first of a brace. The 31-year-old took one touch to stun McKay’s pinpoint angled pass over the top and then rifled a fine left-footed strike into the bottom right corner with laser-beam precision.
His second, scored on 19 minutes, was an opportunistic strike. Swivelling on a sixpence, he hooked beyond Nicky Cadden on the line after O’Ware had knocked down another Fulton flag-kick.
Only two excellent, last-ditch blocks prevented Vine from completing a hat-trick as Ton threatened to run riot.
But the expected rout failed to materialise.
After surging into a three-goal lead so early on, the visitors took their foot off the gas, allowing Airdrie back into the game.
Liam Coogans — a target for the likes of Blackburn, Huddersfield and Celtic — pulled one back on 25 minutes, pouncing on a mix-up to stroke calmly beyond Derek Gaston’s reach.
The talented 17-year-old put the cat amongst the pigeons nine minutes later when he swept fellow teenager Cadden’s cutback high into the roof of the net.
Thereafter, Gaston made two fine saves to preserve his side’s lead, as did Airdrie custodian Christopher McCluskey, who got down to deny O’Connor his first Ton goal on 73 minutes.
The second half was something of a non-event, though, and David Hopkin’s men held on for a third consecutive win, stretching their lead at the top of the Reserve League Cup west section to five points.
Morton (4-4-2): Gaston (7); Taggart (6), Cole (6), O’Ware (6), Russell (5) (Fitzpatrick 46, 6); McKay (7), Imrie (5), O’Brien (5), Fulton (7) (Knight 66, 4); O’Connor (6), Vine (8) (Campbell 46, 5).
Subs not used: McCormack.