January 17, 2019

Report: St Mirren 1-1 Morton

By Stuart Gillespie at the Paisley 2021 Stadium

A draw was perhaps inevitable in the season’s first Renfrewshire derby. Saints, without an opening day league win for a decade, against Morton, who hadn’t beaten the Buddies for more 17 years. It was the movable force against the stoppable object.

Of the two sides, Morton will feel most aggrieved about not ending their jinx. They hit the bar twice before eventually scoring, Thomas O’Ware stooping unchallenged to head home Ross Forbes’ free-kick. The visitors were on top for most of the first half, Gary Oliver spurning their best chance to double the lead before David Clarkson passed up a fine chance to equalise just before the break.

While Saints were on top in the possession stakes for most of the second half they did little with it and it was Morton – specifically Oliver – who had the better of the chances. However, the relief among the home support was palpable seven minutes from time when youngster Lewis Morgan hung up a cross to the back post and John Sutton – who was on target the last time the Buddies won on the opening day – headed home the equaliser to salvage a point.

Sutton started the game on the bench, along with Tom Walsh and Scott Gallacher, who both started in last week’s win over Edinburgh City. Jamie Langfield was back in goals, Calum Gallagher started on the wing and Gary Irvine was in defence at the expense of Jordan Stewart, who dropped out of the squad entirely. Morton had Jai Quitongo – son of former Saint Jose – in from the start with ex Buddies youth player Jon Scullion on the bench.

Morton seemed to settle the quickest as they attacked towards their own fans and they almost took an early lead when Michael Tidser intercepted a wayward pass and clipped the top of the bar with a 25 yard drive. Quitongo was already causing the Saints defence problems, Jack Baird picking up a booking for hauling him to the ground. The initial free-kick was cleared but when the ball was played back into the box Lee Kilday was left unmarked, the defender rattling the bar with a header. The home defence was all over the place and Oliver was able to get in behind before shooting wide, the away fans claiming furiously for a corner.

By contrast, the home fans had had little to get excited about, although there was a loud minute’s applause in tribute to lifelong Saints fan Tam McGarry, whose son Steven scored against Morton many times. However, no sooner had that died down than Morton took a well deserved lead. Ross Forbes’ free-kick into the box was perfect and Thomas O’Ware was barely challenged as he thumped a header past Langfield, sparking delirious scenes on the pitch and in the away end.

The visitors were threatening to run riot, Forbes finding the side netting with a free-kick. It took the Buddies fully 20 minutes to muster a shot on goal, Lawrence Shankland flicking the ball on for David Clarkson whose shot went wide. It sparked a brief bit of Saints pressure before Morton passed up a golden chance to double their lead. Oliver pounced on a poor Baird header and played in Quitongo, however he dragged his shot well wide. Saints did begin to get a foothold in the game and were able to get into the final third without creating a great deal, Gallagher having a backpost header blocked. The best chance came just before the break, the Buddies charging forward from a free-kick and Lawrence Shankland set up Clarkson with a great chance but his strike partner blazed it over the bar.

Half-Time: St Mirren 0-1 Morton

Oliver passed up a decent chance at the start of the second half, curling an effort well over the bar, before Clarkson was replaced by Ryan Hardie. Gary Irvine and Kilday both quickly found themselves booked for separate incidents as tempers flared a little. Jason Naismith was next to be booked for a challenge, moments after Shankland had had a shot blocked by Kilday. Irvine found himself in unfamiliar territory when he got to the edge of the Morton box, which may explain why he completely missed the ball as it sat up nicely for a shot. Oliver passed up an even better chance when the ball dropped kindly for him inside the box, the forward snatching at the chance and sclaffing his effort.

Baird was lucky to escape a second yellow for another poor challenge on Quitongo, Saints replacing Gallagher with Walsh in a bid to find a way back into the match before Sutton took over from Oliver. The switch to 3-4-3 briefly lifted the crowd, Morton replacing Jamie Lindsay with Mark Russell in an attempt to deal with the change in shape.

Despite the extra forward, Saints hadn’t threatened greatly but they equalised with five minutes to go. Lewis Morgan produced some trickery to get himself to the byline and chip the ball over Russell across to the backpost. A whole host of men in black and white shirts were waiting and it was Sutton who got to the ball first, the striker nodding past Gaston to level things up and score the first goal of his second Paisley spell.

Having thrown everything into getting an equaliser, Saints had to be careful they didn’t fall behind again, Ricki Lamie heading well over from a Morton corner before Quitongo was replaced by Scott Tiffoney. Another Morgan cross found Sutton, this time the striker heading well over, before Tidser was booked for a poor tackle on Shankland as the two sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.

Full-Time: St Mirren 1-1 Morton

St Mirren: Langfield, Naismith, Irvine (Sutton 71), Baird, Webster, Gallagher (Walsh 65), Hutton, Mallan, Morgan, Shankland, Clarkson (Hardie 51).
Subs Not Used: Whyte, O’Keefe, McDonald, Gallacher (GK).

Morton: Gaston, Kilday, Lamie, O’Ware, Doyle, Oliver (McAleer 90), Forbes, Lindsay (Russell 76), Tidser, McDonagh, Quitongo (Strapp 85).
Subs Not Used: Scullion, Stevenson, Tiffony, McNeil (GK).

Referee: Steven McLean.
Assistant Referee: Alan Mulvanny.
Assistant Referee: Simon MacLean.

Attendance: 4,997

Star Saint: Jason Naismith.

Match report pictures by Allan Picken – © Allan Picken Photography.

Match Gallery Pictures © John Millar.