MORTON manager Gus MacPherson says he couldn’t have asked for more from his players after they fell to a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat against Motherwell.

Stephen O’Donnell thought he'd sealed the Premiership side's place in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals with a 120th-minute, however, Ton replied immediately with a Markus Fjortoft header to take the tie to penalties.

MacPherson was pleased with the character shown by his players and called for them to carry it over into the final three games of their relegation battle - starting with champions-elect Hearts tomorrow night.

He told the Tele: “I thought we were excellent and that we worked ever so hard.

“We competed for the full 120 minutes against a Premiership team and I enjoyed watching that performance which is the most important thing.

“It’s disappointing to lose by any manner of means but to a penalty shootout is probably the most unfortunate but I’m pleased with how well we competed.

“We had a couple of chances but I only think Aidan McAdams has had one direct save to make.

“Over the 120 minutes, we competed very, very well.

“Motherwell had a lot of possession but for the most part they didn’t really trouble us.

“Penalties are always a lottery and you need a bit of luck in those situations and we were on the other side of that particular line in the earlier rounds against Dunfermline.

“We weren’t on it this time and the players will be disappointed and that’s the nature of football, when you go into a penalty shootout somebody has to lose.

“We’ll be back in to prepare for the Hearts game.

“I’ve only been here for six or seven games but the players show this sort of desire all the time.

"I’ve never criticised them for lack of trying, they’re so enthusiastic and they work extremely hard.

“That’s not what’s been missing but if we can take that sort of performance from Friday night into the remaining games then we’ll be more than okay.

“We’ve got to try and do the same again but we’ve shown that already.

“We’ve just got to try and get over the line and remain in the Championship."

MacPherson praised midfield duo Reece Lyon and Lewis McGrattan, who played key roles in the Ton engine room.

And he urged McGrattan to prove that he can make the step-up to first-team action.

The Ton boss said: "Reece Lyon has come in against tried and trusted Premiership midfielders and held his own and was unlucky not to score.

"Lewis McGrattan as well has had a great delivery from the corner and Markus has headed home with a great finish.

"That's one thing we’ve tried to do since we’ve been in, is to promote the youth players that have warranted a chance.

"You can be the best player in the youth team and be standout every week but it’s about making that step-up is another thing and they’ve showed that against Motherwell."