DCSIMG

Morton come up trumps in latest rollercoaster ride at the summit

Martin Hardies second-half strike beyond Michael McGovern floored a luckless Falkirk. Picture: SNS

Martin Hardies second-half strike beyond Michael McGovern floored a luckless Falkirk. Picture: SNS

  • by CRAIG P STEWART
 

SCOTLAND’S most competitive title chase was at its gripping best again on Saturday as Morton won 1-0 at Falkirk to return to the top of the First Division, whilst the bottom two sides defeated the Greenock side’s closest challengers.

With Celtic, Queen of the South and Rangers running away with the SPL, Second Division and Third Division respectively, the First Division is the only Scottish league which appears to have a meaningful title chase. Thankfully for fans, the proposed reconstruction to a 12-12-18 set-up should not interfere with it. Allan Moore’s side opened up a three-point gap at the top thanks to Martin Hardie’s strike. They did, however, ride their luck, especially in the first half, when Falkirk’s Connor McGrandles had a goal disallowed for offside.

The Bairns started the second half brightly and they had further misfortune when Thomas Grant’s free kick was touched onto a post by Derek Gaston and then scrambled clear, with the home players claiming that the ball had crossed the line. Morton’s winner came on 64 minutes when Willie Dyer’s free kick was nodded on by Mark McLaughlin and Hardie steadied himself to shoot home from six yards.

Moore was delighted that his ploy of doing the opposite of Falkirk manager Steven Pressley. He explained: “I went with our most experienced line-up, whereas Steven went for youth. It paid off, but I have to admit we did have a bit of luck, especially in the first half when they had a goal disallowed. We drew with Cowdenbeath last week and now Partick have lost to Dumbarton and Airdrie won at Dunfermline. I am delighted to be back top, but this league is so tight. There will be points dropped by everybody over the coming weeks.”

Pressley, who fielded a side with an average age of 19-and-a-half, said: “We played football in the way I want us to play and the boys handled the experience of the Morton side well. There is a lot to be positive about, especially if we can keep these guys together for three or four years.”

Dunfermline Athletic, who topped the table going into the weekend, came unstuck 3-1 at home to
Airdrie United. The Diamonds took the lead on three minutes when Ryan Donnelly shot home, with Pars supporters rising a minute later to acknowledge the anniversary of the passing of club captain Norrie McCathie 17 years earlier. The Pars drew level on 13 minutes when Ryan Wallace ignored the visitors’ appeals for a foul by Dunfermline’s Alex Whittle on Chris O’Neil to slot home the winger’s cross. Donnelly, however, stunned East End Park a second time by firing his side ahead again just before the hour mark with a shot from 20 yards and Airdrie United scored their third with a penalty seven minutes from time. Callum Morris was adjudged to have fouled Jamie Bain and Paul di Giacomo sealed his side’s first win in ten league games from the spot.

Partick Thistle, who have not won in their last four games, lost 2-0 to a Dumbarton side that have had new life breathed into them by the appointment of Ian Murray, although the Jags did suffer from bad luck at the Bet 
Butler Stadium before half-time.

A header from the Sons’ Alan Lithgow’s header came back off a post to hit Partick’s Conrad Balatoni and cross the line to give Dumbarton a first half lead. Bryan Prunty’s far-post finish 18 minutes into the second half secured Murray’s third win in his fourth league game in charge.

Livingston moved up to fourth with a 2-1 win over Raith Rovers, with Spanish defender Jesus Garcia Tena 
creating both goals.

Iain Russell gave the Lions the lead from a Marc McNulty cross after he had been released by a 60-yard Tena pass and Craig Barr slammed home a Tena cross to grab the three points after Brian Graham had levelled.

Hamilton came from behind to defeat visitors Cowdenbeath 2-1, with Jonathan Page and Stevie May scoring twice in a four-minute spell in the second half to overturn the Blue Brazil’s lead, which came via Kane Hemmings.

Home captain Alex Neil was red-carded before the end, while Cowdenbeath player/manager Colin Cameron, who had already substituted himself, was sent to the stand in the closing stages.

 

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