MORTON manager Jim Duffy heaped praise on his squad after they emerged as League 1 Champions following their 3-1 success over Peterhead at Cappielow. A bumper crowd of more than 6,000 had turned up and after some nervous moments were able to relax before moving on to let their hair down.
Duffy’s side started the day leading Forfar on goal difference and two points ahead of Stranraer in third place. News of the Loons going ahead against Ayr filtered through, and concerns over a party falling flat increased when Peterhead scored on 17 minutes, Gary McDonald rising to head in a Steven Noble corner from close range.
The game and title-changing moment came four minutes later when Scott Ross pulled Declan McManus back 20 yards from goal and was immediately dismissed.
Michael Miller scored his first goal of the season when he sent a shot screaming home from 25 yards on 36 minutes to level. The hosts moved ahead just three minutes later when Mark Russell’s 20-yard shot took an awkward bounce in front of Graeme Smith and the goalkeeper could only help it into the net.
By this stage, Forfar were down to ten men and behind. However, Stranraer emerged as a threat as they led at Brechin. A second-half equaliser by the Blue Toon and another three goals for the Stair Park men would see them winners and a well-struck 40 yard free-kick by substitute Jamie Stevenson almost produced the leveller, but Derek Gaston grabbed the ball at the second attempt. Morton wrapped things up six minutes from time when McManus skipped past Smith and rolled the ball into an unguarded net.
Duffy said: “You have to congratulate the players at the end of an unbelievably tough campaign. We had to put a team together last summer of players who did not know each other as only three of the boys involved today were here.”
“They have shown a great attitude, tremendous commitment and a fair amount of skill. They also showed courage in coming back from a goal down in this game. The players have had some criticism throughout the campaign but they never hid.”
The success completed a double for Duffy who won the First Division with Morton as a player in 1984. However, he played down his success, saying: “It is about the players and the club and not about me.”
Stranraer finished as runners-up after their 3-1 success at Brechin where Stephen Stirling opened the scoring for the Stair Park men on 20 minutes. However, Ryan Ferguson levelled. A penalty in each half by Willie Gibson completed the Blues’ win. Brechin will miss Darren McCormack in their first-leg play-off meeting with Alloa after he was dismissed with 16 minutes left.
Stranraer will meet Forfar in the play-offs after the Loons’ championship challenge ended in a 3-1 defeat by a visiting Ayr side who avoided the relegation play-offs as a result.
Dale Hilson’s penalty had Forfar as pending champions, but Jon-Paul McGovern’s reply from the spot after Michael Dunlop was dismissed and Jordan Preston’s goal had Ayr ahead at half-time. Alan Forrest ensured that the Honest Men’s season ended positively with a goal in the second half.
Stenhousemuir will scrap for survival against League 2 East Fife, the Warriors going into the first meeting on Wednesday after a 3-2 defeat at relegated Stirling Albion. Colin McMenamin’s header had Stenhousemuir ahead, but Gordon Smith equalised. Craig Sutherland restored the visitors’ lead before Ross Forsyth and Andrew Stirling netted in the closing stages.
Airdrie won 3-2 after visiting Dunfermline had opened the scoring through Andy Geggan. Jordan Morton restored parity before the break with Bob McHugh scoring either side of a Josh Falkingham leveller to win the points.