THIS Renfrewshire derby, the first one in the league for 15 years, resolutely refused to yield a goal as both sides emerged with a creditable point.
It was an outcome which doubtless suited St Mirren a little better than their Greenock hosts, especially since the Paisley team were reduced to ten men and relied on goalkeeper Jamie Langfield for a string of fine saves.
The early pace was frantic and a rugged early challenge by Jim Goodwin was a sign of things to come.
Ross Forbes sent the resulting free-kick inches wide before Paul McMullan drove through the centre of the Morton defence but sent his shot over the bar.
Steven Thompson can count himself very unlucky to have a goal ruled out after just eight minutes, the veteran striker outjumping Morton goalkeeper Derek Gaston and burying a header into the net, but referee Greg Aitken blew for a foul on the ’keeper.
Saints, desperate to avoid a third straight defeat, went close when Scott Agnew volleyed wide and the pulsating pace continued when Connor Pepper fired a powerful 20-yard shot just over at the other end.
Agnew’s cultured left foot frequently offered St Mirren hope and the midfielder fired in a powerful drive that Gaston needed two attempts to save.
Saints defender Jack Baird then made an outstanding last-gasp tackle on Denny Johnstone just as the striker was about to go for goal.
Peter MacDonald then crossed for Johnstone at the back post but the on-loan Birmingham youngster headed over.
Veteran striker MacDonald then let fly from the edge of the box forcing Langfield to dive down to his right to parry to safety.
New Saints signing Keith Watson made a great block to deny Stefan McCluskey who had been sent through by MacDonald’s perfect pass.
It was the Greenock side who had enjoyed the better of the first-half play and chances and they probably should have been in front. In the last minute before the break they won a free-kick right on the edge of the box but MacDonald curled it over.
The Paisley side were dealt a blow on the restart when Luke Conlan lunged in recklessly on Bobby Barr and was immediately shown a red card by referee Aitken.
Morton almost made the extra man count when a short free-kick was played to MacDonald whose swerving shot was bound for the bottom corner until Langfield produced a wonderful fingertip save to turn it behind.
Tackling became no less fierce as the match headed towards its climax and McCluskey was booked following a clash with Goodwin who did not look entirely innocent, the home fans baying for their rivals to be reduced to nine men. The home side then suffered a blow when Gaston was forced off through injury and his replacement Grant Adam made an alert diving save to push Goodwin’s 20-yard shot for a corner.
At the other end Morton thought they had won it when Barr crossed for MacDonald whose looping effort was clawed round the post by Langfield. The Saints ’keeper produced one last reflex save, again to deny MacDonald, before Adam matched his opposite number’s athleticism to turn Goodwin’s netbound free-kick to safety,
Morton: Gaston (Adam 72), Kilday, Lamie, Miller, Forbes, Johnstone, MacDonald, McCluskey (Sajabo 72), Pepper, Barr, Gasparatto (O’Ware, 62). Subs not used: Scullion, Cairnie, Orr, Stevenson.
St Mirren: Langfield, Watson, Conlan, Baird, Kelly, Goodwin, Carswell, McMullan, Agnew (Stewart 58), Howieson (Morgan 80), Thompson (Gallagher 70) Subs not used: Ridgers, Cuddihy, Mallan, Gow.
Referee: G Aitken. Attendance: 5,343.