Imrie claims another three points as Morton beat Ayr
Dougie Imrie made it two wins on the bounce as Morton defeated Ayr at Somerset Park on Saturday afternoon. Jack Donnelly reports.
In what should hopefully be the last match weekend with restrictions on fan attendance, Morton put in a strong showing as they made the trip west and defeated Ayr at Somerset Park.
A brace from Gavin Reilly was the difference between the two sides, as Morton moved within a point of their opponents in the cinch Championship table.
Both sides had seen success under their new managers in recent weeks, with Lee Bullen’s Ayr claiming victory over league leaders Arbroath last weekend, while Dougie Imrie’s Morton hit Dunfermline for five at Cappielow.
Bullen made one change to the team that bested Arbroath last time out – top scorer Tomi Adeloye replaced Michael Moffat in the starting line-up, while new winger Ryan Gondoh was amongst the substitutes. There was also only one change for Morton, as Jamie Brandon was drafted in for his debut, with the Hearts loanee replacing Darren Hynes.
There has been plenty of positivity surrounding Ayr in the last few weeks and they almost got off to the best possible start inside the first minute. Andy Murdoch connected with a good cross from the right-hand side, but his volley was held by Jack Hamilton in the Morton goal.
A brilliant opportunity presented itself to Adeloye, with the Morton back line failing to get a foot on the ball as it came backwards from a breakdown. The striker raced clear of his opposing defenders but took one touch too many, allowing Hamilton to smother the ball before Adeloye could shoot on goal.
Ayr saw plenty of the ball in the opening exchanges, with Morton set up in a defensive 5-3-2 out of possession. The Honest Men weren’t able to create much of note, though, as forays forward were mostly attempted with a long ball up the park, which the likes of Alan Lithgow and Michael Ledger were more than ready to sweep up.
James Maxwell was at the crux of everything Ayr were doing in attack and could well have set up the opening goal after 20 minutes. After some head tennis, the ball dropped to Mark McKenzie, who darted in-field before slotting a ball through the gap to Maxwell. The Rangers loanee squared a perfect ball across the face of the Morton goal, but a white shirt was unable to tap it home.
Despite all that Ayr had shown throughout the game, it was Morton who opened the scoring after 27 minutes. A Lewis Strapp cross found Reilly, who had ghosted in at the near post, and the forward placed the ball past Aidan McAdams to give the visitors the advantage.
Morton were looking the far better side after taking the lead, with Ayr unable to regain the same level of control they had held previously. There were shouts for a penalty to the home side when Adeloye was sent tumbling to the ground after tangling with a Morton defender inside the box, but referee John Beaton brandished a yellow card in the striker’s direction instead.
Morton almost doubled their lead in impressive fashion, as Cameron Blues hit a powerful shot from distance that looked destined to find the bottom corner. The home supporters were able to applaud though, as McAdams was quick to react, stopping the effort with a strong right hand and claiming the ball.
As the second half began, Ayr didn’t raise the intensity to try and find their way back into the match – it was Gozie Ugwu who tried his luck first, with his effort deflected over the bar in the 47th minute. Morton had the ball in the back of the net from the resulting corner, but Beaton blew his whistle for a foul, keeping the away side just one goal ahead.
Morton continued to win the little battles against their opponents and were rewarded just after an hour with their second goal. Ugwu made a strong run down the right, evading a number of challenges before fizzing a pass towards the far post. Goalscorer Reilly was quickest to react and slid in to guide the ball home for his second of the afternoon.
Throughout the second half, Ayr were unable to match Morton physically or technically, with passes loose and challenges weak. The discontent in the main stand at Somerset Park was clear to see, as Ayr tried in vain to muster anything positive with time ticking on.
Nothing good was to come for the home side, as Morton picked up a big three points and roped Ayr back down into a more closely contested battle at the bottom of the table.
Both sides are away from league action in their next fixture as the Scottish Cup returns. Ayr face a visit from St. Mirren, while it’s also Premiership opposition for Morton as they travel to Fir Park to take on Motherwell.