SPFL Championship. MORTON 0 DUNFERMLINE 1: 25/03/17

Allan Johnston made two changes to his team from last weekend’s loss to Ayr United. Andy Geggan and Paul McMullan returned from injury in place of Ryan Williamson and Joe Cardle, who dropped to the bench.

Beautiful sunshine greeted the teams on an immaculate Cappielow pitch and the hosts were aiming to extend an unbeaten home record that stretched to 364 days before kick off. Dunfermline had the game’s first chance in two minutes when Sean Murdoch’s free-kick was flicked on by Michael Moffat for Nicky Clark, but his first-time volley finished off target.

At the other end, former Par Ross Forbes’ corner created an opportunity in the seventh minute for Lee Kilday, but he could only head over from eight yards out. Jason Talbot quickly produced a smart recovery block to deny another former Athletic player, Lawrence Shankland, as he shot for goal after getting in behind Lee Ashcroft but the visitors cleared any danger from the resulting corner.

McMullan and Moffat both had efforts blocked in the 12th minute in quick succession as Dunfermline showed a bit of promise in attack, and in the 16th minute, took the lead. Higginbotham’s corner from the right was not dealt with by Derek Gaston, who flapped at the ball, allowing it to drop to Nicky Clark at the back post to flick it across the six-yard line for NAT WEDDERBURN to tap home.

Morton served notice of their threat in the 23rd minute when another Forbes corner was missed by everyone before being retrieved by Aidan Nesbitt at the far post. His return ball was headed out to the edge of the box but Andy Murdoch’s first-time volley was slashed wide. There was an even bigger chance in the 27th minute for Shankland, whose run in behind was picked out brilliantly from deep by Mark Russell but fortunately for the Pars his shot ended just wide of goal.

An excellent interception on the right by Higginbotham set Dunfermline on their way but, despite some good team play, they were unfortunate not to carve out a goalscoring opportunity. In the 33rd minute, Ashcroft produced a brilliant interception to read Shankland’s attempted pass for Russell to run on goal and, almost immediately, Pars countered. McMullan did well to feed Clark, whose shot was blocked but he was flagged offside in any case.

Forbes was booked three minutes before the break for diving under the attentions of Ashcroft as Morton again asked questions of the visitors’ defence, but both Ashcroft and Callum Morris did well to make sure they kept the back door locked.

There were no changes made at the start of the second half but Morton had a big shout for handball waved away by the referee soon after the restart. In the 53rd minute, good play by Clark released Moffat on the left edge of the box but his shot was deflected out for a corner, from which McMullan eventually drove one from the edge of the box but the Ton defence blocked well.

Clark then forced Gaston into a good stop with a curler from the edge of the box before Murdoch soon made a smart finger-tip stop from his ‘Ton namesake after he connected with Geggan’s headed clearance from a corner with a superb volley.

Higginbotham then had a shot from range blocked as play moved from end to end, before Jim Duffy made the first substitution in 62 minutes by subbing Jamie Lindsay for Michael Tidser. Forbes had a decent opportunity for Morton from another corner but he sent the ball just wide, before Oliver found himself in lots of space on the right-side of the box but Pars cleared. Wedderburn had a header towards goal cleared from a Higginbotham delivery before Morton introduced Kudus Oyenuga for Shankland in 68 minutes.

Minutes later Dunfermline carved out a fantastic chance. Higginbotham’s exquisite pass with the outside of his boot released McMullan towards the box, but his first-time effort was weak and held by Gaston. Herron was replaced by Rhys McCabe in the 73rd minute and Pars thought they had a second goal. A Higginbotham corner was bulleted home by Morris but referee Mat Northcroft disallowed it for what he deemed to be a push on the covering Morton defender.

The hosts had Gaston to thank in the 76th minute when excellent play by the Pars saw Wedderburn lay the ball off for McCabe at the edge of the area, but his goal-bound shot was saved well by the keeper low to his left. At the other end, Murdoch performed heroics to keep the Pars ahead when he saved point-blank at his near post from sub Kudus Oyenuga after Forbes’ cross was flicked on to him inside the six-yard box by Tidser.

As the home team pushed as the clock moved into the final 10 minutes, Pars found space on the counter and good play by Moffat sent McCabe away on the right, but his shot was saved by Gaston. Talbot then pounced on a loose pass on the left and moved forward, crossing for Moffat at the far post but Gaston again was equal to the task, blocking his header.

David Hopkirk was sent on for Moffat with two minutes left in a bid to run the clock down as Dunfermline continued to chase absolutely everything down. A dangerous Forbes free-kick caused panic but thankfully it missed everyone on its way out for a goal kick, and in the second minute of stoppage time, Cardle was sent on for McMullan to waste some valuable seconds.
As ‘Ton frustrations grew, Tidser had a go from distance but he didn’t connect with it properly as it trundled wide in the 93rd minute, but Dunfermline had done enough to earn a vital victory and end Morton’s long unbeaten home run.
MORTON: Derek Gaston: Lee Kilday (Ricki Lamie 45), Thomas O`Ware, Doyle, Mark Russell: Ross Forbes, Jamie Lindsay (Michael Tidser 62), Aidan Nesbitt, Andy Murdoch, Gary Oliver, Lawrence Shankland Kudus Oyenuga 68).
SUBS NOT USED: Luke Donnelly, Jon Scullion, James McGowan (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Russell (31), Forbes (42), Oyenuga (81)

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch (c): Andy Geggan, Callum Morris, Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Nat Wedderburn: Kallum Higginbotham, John Herron (Rhys McCabe 73), Paul McMullan (Joe Cardle 90): Nicky Clark, Michael Moffat (David Hopkirk 88).
SUBS NOT USED: Ryan Williamson, Michael Paton, Gavin Reilly, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: Wedderburn (16)
YELLOW CARD: Wedderburn (16),Geggan (26), Herron (37), McMullan (90)

REFEREE: Mat Northcroft
WEATHER: Sunny Dry 14C

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Hibernian, Saturday 1st April 2017, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park

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