Pars 3 Morton 1

MICHAEL O’Halloran’s late goal wrapped up a fine win for Athletic after Morton threatened to make it an anxious afternoon.

Dunfermline struck early with Craig Wighton edging them ahead with Lewis McCann finishing off a flowing move to put them on easy street before half-time.

But Robbie Crawford hit back for Morton with an 82nd minute goal and the away side piled on the pressure until O’Halloran ran clear to ease the nerves and make the points safe.

It should have been a far more comfortable win, they had so many good scoring opportunities, but the three points lifts James McPake’s men up to fourth in the Championship table.

It was all the more impressive as the home team are still without five first choice players, skipper Kyle Benedictus, goalie Deniz Mehmet, Matty Todd, Rhys Breen and Kane Ritchie-Hosler – the luckless winger has just had his second operation of the season, this time on his knee.

Paul Allan was fit enough to return to the bench as McPake picked the same team that triumphed 2-0 against Queen’s Park at the national stadium last week.

Morton started the match second bottom of the Championship but picked up a creditable point in a 1-1 draw at Tannadice in their last outing.

They were slow out of the blocks here though and Josh Edwards had an early shot deflected just wide of the target, with goalie Jamie McDonald helplessly looking on, before Athletic took the lead in the eighth minute.

And it was all too easy. Joe Chalmers swung a corner from the right into the six yard box, Wighton stepped in front of his marker and calmly placed a side-foot volley beyond McDonald.

Dougie Imrie’s men rallied and a neat move saw Cameron Blues tee up Steven Boyd who stepped in off the wing and curled a fine effort just too high.

Ewan Otoo had a go from distance, after Chalmers rolled a free kick into his path, which whistled over the bar as Athletic began to take control.

McCann, who netted in the last match against Morton, a 1-1 draw at East End in March last year, grabbed a double against the Spiders and was keen to continue his scoring streak.

That brace included that stunning free kick from near enough 30 yards and, full of confidence, he had a go from the same sort of range in the 13th minute after winning the ball back and exchanging passes with Wighton.

It was a thunderous crack, McDonald was beaten all the way but the ball thumped back down off the bar and Morton survived.

The striker wasn’t to be denied for long though with the Pars doubling up in the 27th minute.

It was a great goal. Otoo advanced down the left, slid a perfectly weighted pass in behind the defence for Edwards to rush onto and his perfect low ball across goal was gleefully tucked home at the back post by McCann.

The first half also included a touching tribute from fans in the North West stand, and a round of applause from around the ground, for Dunfermline supporter Kray Bathgate who passed away recently.

Dunfermline Press: Tributes were paid at the match to Pars fan Kray Bathgate, who sadly passed away recently.Tributes were paid at the match to Pars fan Kray Bathgate, who sadly passed away recently. (Image: Newsquest)

Kirk Broadfoot had to get a last ditch tackle just right – and he did – to stop Ben Summers haring in on goal but Pars kept on coming and could have been three up before the break.

Aaron Comrie blocked Robbie Crawford’s drive and Athletic immediately raced up the other end with Wighton breaking through and unselfishly playing the ball left for McCann.

The striker’s eyes lit up, he had time to take a touch but he rushed it and lifted the ball over keeper and bar.

Next goal was going to be all-important. One for Morton and they’d fancy their chances of getting something from the match, while a goal for Dunfermline would surely be a stroll to the finishing line.

And the Greenock men should have got it. A deflected cross fell kindly for Blues around the penalty spot in the 50th minute but he sclaffed it and the ball rolled harmlessly wide.

A bad injury for Tyler French, who was stretchered off, arrested Morton momentum and Athletic came back with Summers cutting in from the left and unleashing a fizzing drive which McDonald pushed over the top.

More injury woes for the Greenock men saw Darragh O’Connor, who had replaced French, limp off himself just six minutes later with ex-Par Iain Wilson coming on.

But they forced Dunfermline back with Otoo and Sam Fisher having to make heroic blocks to prevent the visitors getting a foothold in the game.

They were vulnerable to the counter attack though and McCann almost made them pay in the 66th minute, jinking inside from the right before sliding a low drive past the post.

Ton kept knocking on the door, Chris Hamilton threw himself in front of Crawford’s drive for yet another block, and Robbie Muirhead hooked an effort on to the top of the net.

Alex Jakubiak, who replaced Wighton, should have made the game safe in the 73rd minute when Summers rode a couple of challenges and expertly slid him clean through, but the sub pulled his shot wide of the post.

Sub Owen Moffat almost tricked his way to a third goal for Athletic, he had Wilson twisted in so many knots that he fell over, but McDonald palmed away his cheeky chip.

Crawford threw Morton a lifeline when he ran onto Muirhead’s lay off and squeezed a low shot past Harry Sharp with eight minutes left on the clock.

The Greenock men sensed blood and poured forward with Dunfermline unable to maintain possession and inviting further pressure.

But in the final seconds they broke free, Jakubiak looped a clever ball over the defence for O’Halloran to run onto and he poked the ball low past McDonald to seal the win and net his first goal in two years.