Ton of the best!

Published: 12 Jul 2012 10:000 comments

SUMMER signing Stephen Stirling helped himself to a fantastic hat-trick as Morton romped to a resounding victory over amateur side Campbeltown Former Pupils last night.

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Allan Moore's men were invited to make the long, winding journey down the Kintyre peninsula to compete in a showpiece friendly to mark the opening of a football exhibition at Campbeltown museum.

However, this was not merely a one-off visit. The Cappielow side have a long-standing connection with the town and its football teams, dating back to a match against Campbeltown Athletic in 1888.

On their most recent visit, in 2002, just prior to their successful Third Division title-winning campaign, a Ton team managed by Dave McPherson and featuring the likes of £50,000 signing Alex Williams, John Maisano and Warren Hawke secured a 5-0 friendly win.

Ten years on, a side including Warren's son, Lewis, doubled that tally, hitting double figures as they ruthlessly ripped the amateurs apart on a gloriously sunny evening in Argyll.

The rout began in the fourth minute when Stirling pounced on a defensive mix up and stroked a cool finish across Campbeltown keeper Craig Lamont and into the bottom left-hand corner from eight yards.

Trialist right-back Scott Taggart has impressed in recent outings against Rapid Bucharest and Albion Rovers, and the flying full-back was causing Campbeltown untold problems with his marauding runs.

Ton should have extended their lead in the 19th minute from one of his many centres, but Hawke's header from point-blank range was scrambled around the post by Lamont.

However, Hawke instantly made amends when he swept home from one yard after Michael Tidser's inswinging corner was flicked on at the near post by Peter Weatherson.

The visitors were relentless in their pursuit of goals, and new signing Jordan Halsman, who, like fellow full-back Taggart, constantly steamed forward to support the attack, added a third less than 60 seconds later with a stunning strike from 25 yards.

Another inswinging Tidser flag kick caused chaos in the Campbeltown six-yard box in the 24th minute, and Thomas O'Ware took full advantage by rising highest to head in at the far post.

There was a sense of déjà vu six minutes later when O'Ware headed yet another Tidser set piece - a free kick from out on the right flank this time - into the net. But the young defender, playing his third game of pre-season at centre-half, was penalised for a foul and the 'goal' was chopped off.

Ton, and their loyal band of followers, did not have long to wait for the fifth, however, as Tidser himself netted one minute later to make it 5-0.

While the finish was exquisite, there was a touch of fortune about the goal.

In the build-up, Weatherson put Hawke in one-on-one with a precision pass, but just as the teenage striker attempted to take the ball in his stride, it struck his heel and broke back to Tidser.

Campbeltown custodian Lamont, meanwhile, had raced from his line to meet Hawke, leaving him stranded in no man's land and watching helplessly as Tidser carefully lofted the ball over him with his right foot.

Stirling made it a half-time half dozen five minutes before the break when he thrashed home from the edge of the box following excellent approach play by Tony Wallace on the right wing.

Moore made four changes at the break, introducing trialist right-back Ewan McNeil, reserve players Euan Blair and Alan Frizzell, and under-17s goalkeeper Neil Flack.

But his side picked up exactly where they left off, with McNeil seamlessly taking up the mantle from Taggart and creating the seventh barely two minutes into the second half.

The former Rangers youth careered forward unopposed - which left the Campbeltown manager apoplectic - and fired over a searching cross which Lamont misread, leaving Declan McDaid the easy task of nodding into an empty net.

Stirling completed his treble in the 50th minute, slamming an unstoppable shot past a bewildered Lamont from 12 yards.

Three minutes later, Lamont was left totally exposed as Tidser ghosted into the box to score number nine with a diving header.

The goal would prove to be Tidser's final contribution.

He and central-midfield partner Stirling immediately made way for Ewan McLean and Raymond Lynch, and they were quickly followed into the fray by fellow reserve players Corey Nicolson and Dylan McLaughlin.

At this stage, the team on the park was more representative of how next season's reserve side will look. And while the players acquitted themselves well, with Hawke and Nicolson both striking the crossbar, it was perhaps understandable that the changes allowed the hosts to come back into the game.

In the 71st minute, Gary Grumoli rifled a penalty past Flack to net a consolation which brought the biggest cheer of the day.

However, Ton were not finished yet and McDaid ensured his side would reach double figures by side-footing a neat spot-kick past Lamont after he was upended in the box.

On a day designed to commemorate football in the town, it was very fitting that the last word went to the home side.

Paul Grumoli, emulating his brother, Gary, rammed the ball into the roof of the net from an acute angle to complete the scoring in an entertaining match played in the correct spirit.

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