A tame first half display condemned Livi to a disappointing defeat in Greenock as a second half improvement wasn’t enough to prevent a second straight loss following last week’s reverse at home to Dumbarton.
The home side were fighting for their lives at the foot of the Championship, knowing only wins would do if they were to stand any chance of pulling off a great escape, and they started with an urgency which suggested they fancied their chances of doing just that as David Robertson fired in an excellent half-volley after Craig Sives’ attempted clearance had dropped kindly for the former Dundee United man. Rowan Vine then came close again for the Ton as he latched on to a smart through ball from Barrie McKay but couldn’t get enough purchase on his shot and Darren Jamieson blocked well with his legs.
It was only a matter of time before the hosts’ dominance paid off but it will have been of great frustration to John McGlynn that the goal was as much Livi’s doing as Morton’s. Jamieson played the ball short to Simon Mensing and his heavy touch meant his hurried ball forward was charged down by Darren Cole and the ex-Rangers player teed up Dougie Imrie to fire a thumping first-time shot into the top corner and put Morton in front. Livi then created their first chance, with a little help from the hosts, as two defenders slipped to allow Denholm through. He squared for Keaghan Jacobs who laid the ball back for Burton O’Brien and his low piledriver was held by Derek Gaston at the second attempt.
There was then a bit of a let-off for Livi as Mensing, who was the last man, appeared to clip Robertson just outside the box but referee Craig Charleston saw nothing untoward. Livi had clearly not learned the lessons of the first goal as they gifted Ton position again outside the box but this time Imrie could only shoot straight at Jamieson from a tight angle. Livi almost found themselves level shortly after in bizarre circumstances as good pressure forced Marc Fitzpatrick into an overhit backpass and Gaston had to react very quickly to prevent the ball rolling into the net.
Just when it looked like Livi would make it to the break only one goal behind, Morton doubled their lead with a well-worked goal. Gaston sent a long ball forward to Vine who controlled the ball well, played a one-two with Robertson before sending McKay clear in the box. The on-loan Rangers man sold Callum Fordyce a perfect dummy to cut in on to his right foot before sweeping the ball home at the near post to give Morton a comfortable cushion as the teams went in at the interval.
Livi came out with a renewed urgency in the second half as they tried to mount a comeback. They came close early on as substitute Kyle Wilkie released McNulty but he couldn’t get a good connection on his shot and the advancing Gaston managed to block with his feet. The Lions then appealed for a penalty when Mensing’s header from Martin Scott’s corner seemed to strike a Morton hand but Charleston was again unmoved by his protests.
Morton continued to pose a threat on the counter as Thomas O’Ware played a ball over the top to Imrie and his low shot was brilliantly tipped wide by Jamieson. McNulty was again denied by Gaston soon after as Danny Mullen did well to flick Sives’ long ball onto him but again his connection was tame and Gaston blocked. McNulty was almost played in unintentionally by Fouad Bachirou when the Morton midfielder underhit his backpass but Gaston was alive to the danger and cleared well.
Livi then had their best chance as Scott’s corner went all the way to Fordyce at the back post and his low ball in found Kyle Jacobs who had two bites at the cherry but couldn’t force the ball past Gaston who made a fine double save. Mark Burchill was then denied by a brilliant one-handed save from the Morton no.1 after Nejc Mevlja had fired a perfect long-ball right onto the former Scotland striker’s chest. The match ended with a moment of controversy as McNulty was fouled by O’Ware at least a yard inside the box but the referee only awarded a free kick.
So a third game without a win for the Lions and, although the fact Gaston was named man of the match pointed to a marked improvement in the second half, it was the insipid first half showing which did for the Lions and left their play-off hopes hanging by the finest thread. The Lions return home for their next game as they welcome league-leaders Hamilton to the Energy Assets Arena.
Morton: Gaston, Taggart, Fitzpatrick (Russell 61), Findlay, Imrie, Vine, McKay (Campbell 83), Bachirou, O'Ware, Robertson (McKee 89), Cole
Subs not used: Caraux, O'Connor, Smith, McCormack
Livingston: Jamieson, Denholm (Wilkie 46), Fordyce, Kn.Jacobs (Scott 46), Ky.Jacobs, McNulty, Mensing, Mullen (Burchill 65), Mevlja, O'Brien, Sives
Subs not used: Walker, Beaumont, Lander, Mampuya
Referee: Craig Charleston
Match report: Andrew Crawford