ABERDEEN eventually pulled rank on First Division Morton in the second round of the Scottish Communities League Cup last night, but not before the underdogs had taken their more illustrious opponents to extra-time.
Morton combined spirit with skill to give their top-flight visitors a real run for their money. But goals by Gavin Rae and Scott Vernon staved off any threat of a shock result.
Cappielow has proved the graveyard for big-name teams on more than one occasion in recent times and the early sparring suggested Aberdeen were in for an uncomfortable evening. Indeed the First Division outfit were first to show when a Stephen Stirling shot forced an acrobatic save from Jamie Langfield.
Having come to terms with Morton’s sprightly tempo, Aberdeen eventually made their mark on proceedings and in the 16th minute they were almost rewarded for a slick interchange between Ryan Fraser and Gary Naysmith. Naysmith, the former Scotland international, picked out Ryan Jack with a precise cross which the striker’s shot narrowly failed to match, the ball rising just too high.
Fraser, with his deft movement and close control, was beginning to prove a handful for the home defence and his assist on 23 minutes should have led to the deadlock being broken. His cross was only partially cleared to Rae who had time to pick his spot from 12 yards. Instead, the midfielder’s effort was straight at Derek Gaston.
Morton relieved the growing pressure when Faoud Bachirou made an enterprising break from his own box before feeding David Graham who had the Dons defence back-pedalling. However, the former Dunfermline player’s shot was comfortably gathered by Langfield.
While Fraser bothered the home side on one flank, Jonny Hayes eventually warmed to his task on the other wing and the former Inverness player’s 38th minute cross was punched away by Gaston before Vernon could apply the finishing touch.
Aberdeen suffered a setback when Stephen Hughes limped off near the break with an apparent hamstring injury.
Vernon and Rae both went close after the break, and the SPL side thought they had finally found a way through in 70 minutes when the same two players produced a slick interchange of passes. The goal suddenly opened up for Rae whose shot looked a winner until Gaston’s acrobatics denied the Dons.
Morton responded through substitute Archie Campbell’s rising shot which Langfield managed to turn away.
Clark had one final effort for Aberdeen which rose too high before referee Iain Brines’ whistle signalled a period of over-time.
Aberdeen’s superior fitness began to tell but they wasted the best chance in the first period of extra-time when Osbourne failed to convert Naysmith’s cross.
The breakthrough finally came when Hayes crossed for Rae to plant a header into the net. And hopes of a Morton fightback were extinguished when Rae then turned provider for Vernon to side-foot the ball behind Gaston.