The battle between the two in-form teams in the division ended in a goalless stalemate. Whilst there was little between the sides, United had the better chances underlined by the hosts naming their keeper the man of the match.
By Peter Rundo
After making eight changes for last week’s match at Dunfermline, there was a much more familiar ring to the side with all but seven re-instated. Blair Spittal was the only one who retained his place at the expense of Tope Obadeyi. The Morton side that won at Dumbarton the previous week showed two changes – right-back Michael Doyle in for the suspended Jamie McDonagh and now fully fit Jai Quitono restored to the starting line-up ahead of former Tannadice striker Kudus Oyenuga.
With United the last team to beat Morton and the third-placed hosts the last team to beat United, us this was always going to be a tight affair and that was exactly how things panned out.
United almost got off to a flying start with Charlie Telfer going close in the first minute when his first time effort from just outside the box whizzed inches over. The lively Quitongo showed the danger his pace posed and Willo Flood did well to block his path as he tried to break clear three minutes later. A spell of pressure at the other end saw Frank van der Struijk firing well over. Certainly in the early stages, the Tangerines had plenty of possession but were unable to find a chink in Ton’s two banks of four. Indeed, on 17 minutes, the home side went close to scoring, a Gary Oliver low drive from an acute angle being deflected into the side saw a shot from a very tight deflected into the side-netting. A Ross Forbes curling cross caused consternation in the United box and William Edjenguélé’s attempted clearance skidded off the greasy surface which Cammy Bell did well to hold.
Shortly afterwards, the ever-dangerous Quitongo played the ball back into the path of Andy Murdoch but his low 25-yarder was comfortably collected by Bell.
On 27 minutes Quitongo took exception to Mark Durnan’s challenge and threw the ball at the defender to earn the game’s first booking.
Just before the break, Willo Flood inadvertently played the ball to Quitongo on the bye-line and his hard-hit drive across the face of the goal fortunately flashed past with no takers.
Carrying off where they left off the Ton continued to threaten. Mark Russell drilled in a low driven effort which Bell did well to hold despite the greasy surface and a slight deflection.
Tony Andreu became the second player to be booked for talking out of turn after 48 minutes.
Having ridden that early storm, United began to take a grip on proceedings.
Loan midfielder Tony Andreu made the difference when the sides met at Tannadice last time out, and he looked the man most likely to make the difference for United as they began to up the ante in the last half hour.
Tony Andreu also set up the opener when Scott Fraser ghosted in on his inviting cross and his strong side-foot volley was only kept out by a stunning instinctive save by Gaston.
Uncharacteristically, Andreu then dragged a shot wide of the post from a good position and when he was on target after 77 minutes, the Ton keeper blocked his stabbed shot.
And three minutes from time more Gaston heroics preserved Morton’s unbeaten home record, blocking Jamie Robson’s close range strike with his feet.
Summing Up: Cappielow is always a difficult place to go and with Morton such a well-drilled unit, there was little to choose between the sides. Having said that home keeper Derek Gaston had three outstanding saves, so Ray McKinnon’s men could feel slightly aggrieved not to coming home with all three points. The consolation was that it extended the unbeaten run to an impressive ten games.
Man of the Match: Mark Durnan didn’t keep up his scoring sequence, but he was a rock in defence, contributing hugely to the team keeping a third successive clean sheet.
Morton: Derek Gaston, Michael Doyle, Thomas O’Ware, Gavin Gunning, Ricki Lamie, Ross Forbes, Andy Murdoch (Tidserat 80), Jamie Lindsay, Mark Russell, Gary Oliver, Jai Quitongo, Kudus Oyenuga 74).
Subs not used: Andy McNeil, Caolan McAleer, Lewis Strapp
United: Cammy Bell, Frank van der Struijk (Lewis Toshney 62), Mark Durnan, William Edjenguélé, Jamie Robson, Willo Flood, Charlie Telfer, Scott Fraser, Tony Andreu (Cammy Smith 84), Blair Spittal, Simon Murray (Nick van der Velden 71).
Subs not used: Luis Zwick, Seán Dillon, Coll Donaldson,Tope Obadeyi.
Attendance : 2578
Referee: Crawford Allan