GREENOCK MORTON 1-0 COVE RANGERS
The team suffered a first cinch Championship defeat of the season in a game which, at half-time, the players looked to be in control of, despite the nil-nil scoreline. The performance levels dipped after the break, and Morton won it thanks to a defensive lapse by Shay Logan, and a stunning strike from Jai Quitongo.
It was only the second time the sides have ever met, the Greenock side romping to a 7-1 win at Allan Park in a Scottish Cup tie in the only previous encounter, in December 2004.
Jim McIntyre was forced into making his first change in three games with Robbie Leitch sidelined because of a hamstring injury. Jamie Masson returned to the starting line-up with new signing Luis Longstaff among the substitutes.
On a warm Inverclyde afternoon, Cove, wearing the eye-catching black and gold centenary kit, saw plenty of the ball in the early stages but were unable to penetrate the home rearguard, and were very nearly caught out by a sucker-punch in the tenth minute.
Carlo Pignatiello surged down the right wing and delivered a searching cross which prompted a scramble at the back post. Kabia tumbled in the box, and as he appealed for a penalty, and a first effort was blocked, the ball landed at the feet of Quitongo who blasted over the bar with an angled ten-yard effort.
The Morton striker was presented with another glaring opportunity seconds later when he wriggled clear of Scott Ross and raced towards goal. With Gourlay advancing from his line, Quitongo seemed to panic, and his shot was easily dealt with by Kyle.
Cove’s first serious attempt came in the twelfth minute. Leighton McIntosh cut in from the left with a positive, threatening run. As he neared the edge of the box, Baird upended him with a desperate lunge, and as the ball ran free, Mitch Megginson was quickest to react, his twenty-yard shot saved by Schwake.
Further chances were to follow.
Evan Towler broke down the left and rolled a square pass into the path of Fyvie, and with the Morton defence converging, Fraser cleverly dummied the ball. Vigurs was quickly on to it, and his curling twenty-yard effort was grabbed under the crossbar by the home keeper.
Jamie Masson then delivered from the right, dropping the ball into an inviting area, but Fyvie could only shoot straight at Schwake.
Ross and Reynolds were repelling occasional Morton forays forward, but it was Cove who continued to look the more dangerous side.
Shay Logan took a head knock as he contested a bouncing ball twenty-five yards out, and referee Stuart was quick to blow his whistle. Iain Vigurs stepped up to take the award, but his curling effort rebounded off the wall.
Logan was again involved soon after, his low nineteen-yard shot agonisingly skipping inches wide of Schwake’s left post.
Fraser Fyvie was next to threaten the home back line as he danced through a couple of challenges and fed an inviting ball into the area. Logan ran on to it, but was quickly closed down, and as he wheeled to return it to Fyvie, the momentum was lost, and the move petered out.
The opening goal might have come in the next move. Jamie Masson freed Towler on the overlap, and Evan’s pinpoint cross found Iain Vigurs, his powerful header from six yards coming crashing back off the keeper’s right post.
As the opening half drew to a close, Jamie Masson harshly earned the game’s first yellow card, cautioned for a challenge on Quitongo on the halfway line.
The second half began in similar fashion. With Cove pressing, the home side broke on the counter, and Vigurs bundled Quitongo to the ground to pick up the inevitable booking.
Neither side was making much headway going forward, but Morton forced a corner in the fifty-fifth minute which was to cause concern. Strapp took it short, and when the ball was returned to the left back, he delivered a dangerous cross. Under pressure from Kabia, Gourlay failed to gather, but thankfully the ball curled wide of the back post.
We then forced back-to-back corners, but neither came to anything.
Morton were attempting to bombard the Cove defence with long throws throughout, which Ross and Reynolds were impressive in defending, and from the latest one Connor Scully took a sore one, a high boot catching him on the head as he cleared. O’Connor was rightly yellow-carded, and Quitongo quickly followed him into the book for pulling Towler’s shirt as the full back advanced forward.
Quitongo was proving a nuisance, and after another dangerous run he flashed a low cross into the area, which Reynolds did well to clear.
Towler was next into the book for impeding Quitongo.
Luis Longstaff came on for his Cove Rangers debut in the sixty-fifth minute, and he very nearly made an instant impact. Megginson tussled for the ball on halfway and diverted it into the path of the former Liverpool man. As Luis threatened to break clear, he was hauled to the ground by Strapp, who was booked, but might have been sent-off.
Home manager Dougie Imrie immediately replaced the defender with Hynes, and Jim McIntyre introduced Gerry McDonagh for Vigurs, switching to a 4-4-2.
Before our players could settle down, Morton snatched the lead. Slack defending by Logan offered encouragement to the Cappielow side, and as the ball bounced up on the edge of the box QUITONGO hammered in an unstoppable volley which flew past Gourlay.
With Morton digging in to hold what they had, Lithgow came on as a third central defender with Kabia being sacrificed, but despite that, we were within inches of securing a quick-fire equaliser. Fyvie gathered in midfield, strode forward, and shot from thirty-five yards. With Schwake diving to his right, the ball took a wicked deflection off Blues, but spun just wide of the left post.
Towler might had had a second yellow for tugging back Pignatiello, but the referee ignored the challenge much to Evan’s relief. Fyvie did however become the fourth Cove player cautioned, for a late foul on Blues.
It was to be the last significant moment of the game, and we paid the price for a second half in which the team failed to offer enough going forward, and switched-off for one crucial second to hand Morton the winner.
GREENOCK MORTON (4-4-1-1): Schwake; Pignatiello, Baird, O’Connor, Strapp
(Hynes 72 mins); Muirhead, Gillespie, Lyon (King 61 mins), Kabia (Lithgow 80 mins); Blues; Quitongo
Subs: Green, McGrattan, Garrity, Easdale, McGregor
Goalscorers: Quitongo (77 minutes)
Booked: O’Connor, Quitongo, Strapp
COVE RANGERS (4-1-4-1): Gourlay; Logan, Ross, Reynolds, Towler; Scully; Masson, Fyvie, Vigurs (McDonagh 74 mins), McIntosh (Longstaff 65 mins); Megginson
Substitutes: McKenzie, Neill, Thomas
Booked: Masson, Vigurs, Towler, Fyvie
Referee: Peter Stuart
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