Morton show fighting spirit to claim a point

Published: 16 Jan 2012 12:0010 comments

Morton 1-1 Raith Rovers

MORTON failed to follow up last Saturday's Scottish Cup win over Raith Rovers with a league triumph as they were held to a 1-1 draw in the second match of their double-header.

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Last week's Rovers villain Grant Murray, who bundled Peter MacDonald over to gift Ton a penalty to progress in the Scottish Cup, redeemed himself by heading his side into a 55th-minute lead.

However, David O'Brien steered home Archie Campbell's cutback to secure a point and maintain the Cappielow club's trend of coming back from a goal behind.

The most recent recovery, at Stark's Park the previous Saturday, was sparked by the introduction of MacDonald as a second-half substitute.

And while his performance would have likely secured a return to the starting line-up, a hairline fracture to Andy Jackson's jaw, which will rule him out for between four and six weeks, meant MacDonald's inclusion became a necessity. Injuries to Derek Young and Grant Evans also ensured Peter Weatherson would fill the right-back berth, while Paul Di Giacomo replaced Darren McGeouch in a straight switch.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hawke, son of former fans' favourite Warren, was rewarded for his stunning record of 16 goals in 10 appearances in the Under-19s - which he added to yesterday with two more goals in a 6-0 win against Annan - with a place on the substitute's bench.

Despite the inclusions of Weatherson and MacDonald - the principal protagonists behind Ton's turnaround in the cup - and Allan Moore's plea for his players to perform straight from kick-off, Ton made an alarmingly anaemic start.

Inside the first three minutes, John Baird had a swerving shot deflected wide by Andy Graham and then saw his downward header from Iain Williamson's outswinging corner bounce just wide of the upright.

After missing a penalty last week, Baird could have been forgiven for thinking he was cursed when it came to playing against Ton as his sixth-minute, goal-bound header was blocked by Graham.

Shortly after, Marc Smyth deflected a Baird 25-yard curler wide in an almost identical manner to how Graham had shortly after kick-off.

Yet, despite being pinned back, it was the hosts who almost took the lead against the run of play when a neat exchange of passes between Michael Tidser and O'Brien presented Campbell with an opportunity.

The in-form frontman snatched at the ball, but strike partner MacDonald was alert and fastened onto the mishit, firing off a snapshot from six yards which former Cappielow custodian David McGurn did fantastically to bat away at his right-hand post.

Through a combination of hard work and Tidser's increasing influence, the Greenock side began to gain a foothold in the game.

And skipper Tidser, who turned 22 yesterday, underlined his adroitness in the final third with a slide-rule pass which originally had some fans in the mainstand groaning before it skidded off the turf to perfectly dissect full-back and centre-back and run into Di Giacomo's path.

The wideman was making his first start in six weeks and looked rusty as he skewed his shot off the upright to pass up his side's final chance of the half.

Rovers' keeper McGurn was forced into a fantastic save 10 minutes after the break, when he darted from his line to make an important block to thwart Campbell after Thomas O'Ware had picked out the jet-heeled frontman with an elegant crossfield switch.

Nevertheless, it was Raith who went ahead when Murray rose highest to head Joe Hamill's inswinging corner into the goal at the Sinclair Street End despite Graham's desperate attempt to prevent the ball from crossing the line.

But, whereas the team of two months ago might have crumbled in similar circumstances, this side, which had come back from behind in their previous two matches, managed to extricate themselves from the situation for a third time.

In his programme notes, chairman Douglas Rae christened Campbell 'Human Dart', and the young striker demonstrated exactly why he'd earned the moniker in the build-up to his side's equaliser.

After bursting into the box and taking a heavy touch, he somehow managed to reach the ball before it ran out of play and chopped back across his body and into the path of the inrushing O'Brien to convert from six yards and level the score at 1-1.

The joy would have been extremely short-lived but for a top-class reaction save by Stewart, who thrust up both arms to push Baird's thunderous half-volley from 10 yards over the top, before collecting the resultant corner to ease the pressure on his side.

Ton threatened periodically in the final 15 minutes, with Smyth forcing a smart save from McGurn with a hooked effort after MacDonald had flicked on a Darren McGeouch cross, but they never really looked like finding a winner and the game petered out to a tame finish.

Allan Moore's side moved up to fifth place while stretching their unbeaten run to four matches.

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