Greenock Morton and Queen of the South fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw in the League Cup group stages that saw both teams playing competitively for the first time since March.
With the game heading straight to penalties after 90 minutes it was the Palmerston who would emerge with the extra point as Gregor Buchanan slotted the winning penalty into the net for a 4-2 spot-kick victory.
Both sides started the game looking like they hadn’t played a competitive game in six months. Morton had the better of possession in the opening phase but couldn’t muster anything for the strike partnership of Kalvin Orsi and new signing Ross Maciver to feed on.
Roaring his side on from the touch line, David Hopkin was soon calling for a penalty as his player looked to be brought down by James Maxwell. Referee Don Robertson was having none of it however and waved play on, much to the Morton manager’s dismay.
Robertson would have his cards out shortly after as Aidan Nesbitt turned Buchanan down the left-hand side with the away defender having no option other than grabbing a hold of Nesbitt’s shirt. It left the defender walking the tightrope for the remaining 70 minutes of the game.
Morton would take the lead shortly after with Sean McGinty rising to meet a Rabin Omar cross from the right-hand side and prodding a header past Rohan Ferguson in the Queen’s goal to put Hopkin’s side 1-0 up just after the 20-minute mark. It was the first real chance of the game with Queen of the South struggling to get themselves up the park and keep it there.
Veteran striker Stephen Dobbie was isolated for most of the first half and if Allan Johnston wants his star to man to score for fun again this season, he will require much better service than he received against Morton.
Queen’s woes would be compounded shortly after as Daniel Pybus came off injured having exited the Dumfries side’s most recent friendly with the same problem. He was replaced by highly-rated Norwich City loanee Aidan Fitzpatrick. Hopkin would have been pleased with his sides performance at half-time as they saw out the remainder of the half comfortably with Queen of the South barely testing Aidan McAdams in the Ton goal.
Queen’s would emerge for the second half with more hunger about their play and five minutes after the restart they would level the tie. New signing, Ayo Obileye directed a header towards goal with Dobbie latching onto the ball before tapping into the net.
Morton’s first chance of the half was brought to a grinding halt as Josh McPake raced towards the Queens goal. Connor Shields scythed down his man and received a yellow card for his efforts despite his protests. With their second chance of the half, Hopkin’s side would restore their lead with McPake again proving to be a hassle for his opponent and crossing the ball for Nesbitt to tap in from two yards out.
The Greenock lead lasted only ten minutes with James Maxwell playing in Connor Shields who did well to find the bottom corner and square the game up at 2-2 with the final 10 minutes still to play.
With decent chances few and far between for the remainder of the match the game fizzled out towards the end of the 90 minutes and with things all square between the two sides penalties beckoned. Queen’s were first to take a penalty and first to hit the back of the net with Morton doing so with their first penalty. Robbie Muirhead was the first to miss a penalty on the night with Shields doing so right after.
Omar could not hit the target either and with Buchanan stepping up the spot for Queens he calmly put his penalty past the keeper to give the Palmerston side two points to take back down to Dumfries. Here are three things we learned.
Morton will cause problems in the Championship this season
Throughout the game Morton played like a trademark Hopkin side. Pressuring constantly when they were without the ball this Ton side won’t be bottom of the pile if they can keep everyone fit and healthy over the course of the shortened season.
There is quality all over the pitch in this Morton team with striker Orsi and Rangers loanee McPake carrying most of the attacking threat, with the latter showing some sublime footwork and link-up play to keep his side camped in the Queen’s half.
Dobbie still has the magic touch at 37
As we enter a season of the unknown one thing is for certain; Dobbie will score goals. The veteran striker was not as influential as he has been in previous seasons, but he still made sure to get his name on the score sheet.
At 37 Dobbie will be reaching the end of his career but he still pops up with the goals to bolster Johnston’s attack, and providing he can stay fit for the full campaign, he should be able to keep his side out of the bottom two of the Championship and maybe propel them into the next round of the cup.
The time is now for the lower league teams
With Kilmarnock and Forfar Athletic forfeiting their fixtures in the opening round of the Betfred Cup due to positive COVID-19 tests, there is no better time for the teams in the lower leagues of Scottish football to have a go at a cup run.
In the current sporting climate, anything can happen. Forfar called their game off an hour and a half before kick-off proving that things can change in the blink of an eye.
Kilmarnock look unlikely to have a full-strength team for their next fixture against Dunfermline and a loss would pretty much pave the way for two of Falkirk, Dunfermline, Clyde or Dumbarton to make it into the knockout stages. Teams from the Championship and below are sure to have one eye on the Betfred Cup this season.