MATCH REPORT: Ton secure first league win
Published: 3 Sep 2012 13:300 comments
ARCHIE Campbell helped himself to a hat-trick as Morton got the home monkey off their back with a convincing 3-0 win over local rivals Dumbarton.
After marking his first start of the season with a goal against Falkirk last weekend, the hitman made it four in two with a terrific treble.
He opened the scoring just before the half-time break, doubled his tally on 54 minutes with a cool penalty before punishing a defensive slip to tie up his treble 14 minutes from time.
The frontman passed up a glorious chance to make it a quality quadruple when he thrashed a second spot-kick against the underside of the bar - the fifth time Ton had hit the woodwork.
Before that all came to pass, the pressure was well and truly on for a Ton side without a league win to their name and still struggling to overcome their long-running catastrophic Cappielow record.
The Sons, meanwhile, travelled over the Erskine Bridge on the back of a testing midweek League Cup tie, which they eventually lost 3-2 to Livingston after extra-time, while also sitting rock bottom of the First Division table.
With the hosts desperate for a confidence-boosting home win to kick start their season, their Clydeside rivals were perhaps the ideal opposition. And so it proved as Allan Moore's men eventually made easy work of their opponents.
Their cause was significantly aided by the return to the starting line-up of inspirational skipper Mark McLaughlin, playmaker Michael Tidser, both available after serving suspensions, and experienced forward Peter Weatherson.
However, it was not all good news on the personnel front as Moore was also forced into a couple of last-minute changes.
Alan Combe, who asked to be released from his contract to join Hearts as player/goalkeeping coach late on Thursday night, was replaced on the bench by a trialist in the shape of former Hamilton and Queen of the South keeper David Hutton.
Stephen Stirling, meanwhile, was missing due to a family bereavement. The absence, although tragic, did not have much effect on Moore's plans as he later revealed that he had planned to go with Tidser and Fouad Bachirou at the heart of his midfield four.
After a shaky first 10 minutes in which Craig Reid made an important block from Steven McDougall, Jim Lister dragged a weak effort wide while handily placed and Scott Agnew forced Derek Gaston to scramble across his goal to block his 30-yard drive, Tidser began to stamp his authority on proceedings.
On 12 minutes, the midfielder, who missed last week's loss to Falkirk after his straight red for mouthing off at the referee against Hamilton Accies, came within inches of opening the scoring.
He accepted a Willie Dyer pass on the left of the Dumbarton box, and in his own distinctive way feigned to shoot before chIpping the ball inside his man to free up the space for a strike at goal.
From 22 yards, he wrapped his right foot around the ball and curled it past Stephen Grindlay's despairing dive, only to watch as it crashed against the outside of the right post.
It was the first let-off of many for the visitors, who were also living a charmed life where their astoundingly high defensive line was concerned.
Campbell's electric pace combined with former Ton man Andy Graham's lack thereof meant they were always dicing with disaster.
In the beginning, the frontman continually let the Sons off the hook as he was invariably flagged offside by assistant referee Graham McNeillie after mistiming run after run.
Moore was left furious and, from his seat at the front of the directors' box, screamed at Campbell to get onside and offered a stinging reminder that his speed meant he didn't have to go so early.
Although Campbell has not quite learned to harness his blistering pace to full effect, it was still causing his former team-mate Graham a real headache.
On 25 minutes, he charged after Weatherson's angled pass in behind, causing Graham to panic and blow his attempt to control. Campbell seized possession but then cracked a shot against the same post that Tidser had before him.
Three minutes later, Tidser put Campbell clear down the left with sweeping first-time pass, and he, in turn, rolled the ball back to Weatherson, who'd checked his run to hold back on the edge of the box.
But on what was fast becoming a frustrating afternoon for the hosts, Weatherson swung his left foot at the ball and sent it high over the top and against the advertising board surrounding the clock above the Sinclair Street terracing.
The fact that this was not his worst effort of the half - he also sent a strike sailing into the car park up on the hill behind the same goal - ensured it would be 45 minutes to forget for the Englishman.
When, five minutes before the break, Campbell saw his angled drive deflected wide by Grindlay's thigh after Scott Taggart had put him clear down the inside right channel, there was a creeping doubt that it might not be Morton's day.
So the sense of relief that accompanied Campbell's 43rd-minute opener was tangible.
A spot of head tennis down the right flank ended with Tidser craning his neck back to put the ball over the top of the Dumbarton defence.
Campbell belted after it and left everyone trailing in his wake as he surged into the box and slipped a neat left-footed finish past Grindlay from 12 yards.
The timing was perfect.
The goal went a long way to settling home nerves going into the interval, while also opening it up for Ton to come storming out in the second half and burst open the proverbial floodgates.
Moore's team talk must have contained sentiments to that effect as his charges emerged determined to put the game to bed early on.
In a frenzied start, Bachirou fired a 25-yard drive over the top a minute after the restart before O'Brien stung Grindlay's palms after Campbell had found him with a cutback.
The second, when it did arrive on 54 minutes, came from the penalty spot. Sons skipper Graham was adjudged to have fouled O'Brien just as he was about to pull the trigger.
The decision was harsh. Graham looked to have played the ball.
But in awarding the spot-kick whistler Bobby Madden deemed the defender to have denied O'Brien a goal-scoring opportunity and Graham should have walked.
As it was, the penalty proved punishment enough as Campbell - the designated penalty taker behind Tony Wallace, who was on the bench - coolly converted from 12 yards, placing the ball into the bottom-right corner as Grindlay dived the other way.
Ton were not content to rest on their laurels and looked to turn the screw and add to their tally.
O'Brien looked to have done just that on the hour when he swept Weatherson's low centre towards goal.
Alan Lithgow got back to clear, but the former Ton trialist appeared to have failed to stop the ball from crossing the line first.
They then struck the frame of the goal for a third time when Taggart's 30-yard screamer slammed against the crossbar, as Dumbarton clung on for dear life.
Goalkeeper Grindlay saved at the feet of the increasingly prominent O'Brien after Graham had slipped his fellow wideman in on goal with an intelligent through ball.
A third goal was overdue but it did eventually arrive 14 minutes from the end when Campbell latched onto a poor James Creaney back-pass and flashed a fine finish past the advancing Grindlay to tie up his treble
It was the first Ton hat-trick in league competition since Hearts loanee David Witteveen scored all of his side's goals in a 3-3 draw with Queen of the South in April 2010.
Weatherson, meanwhile, was the last person to score four goals in a league match, in a memorable 9-1 win over Forfar back in 2007.
And Campbell was presented with the perfect opportunity to join his strike partner in that select club when, two minutes from the end, O'Brien's lung-bursting box-to-box run was unceremoniously halted by sub Martin McNiff and Madden awarded a second spot-kick.
After initially appearing willing to step aside and let Tidser have a go, he was instructed to take responsibility by his manager but drilled his kick against the bar with such venom that it bounced down and out to safety.
Yet, there was still room for the rampant hosts to hit the frame of the goal a fifth and final time when Tidser took a coat of paint off the right-hand post with a last-minute daisy cutter.
Ton had created a plethora of chances and should, in actual fact, have run up a cricket score, but, in the end, they will just be relieved to have recorded that elusive first league win.