Hamilton Accies 1 – Imrie (8 pen)
Morton 2 – Forbes (59), Quitongo (63)
Morton stormed back from behind to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup with a tremendous 2-1 win over Hamilton Accies at the SuperSeal Stadium tonight.
The rechristened New Douglas Park was playing host to the Ton for the first time since the bruising 10-2 defeat on the final day of the 2013-14 campaign.
But the Cappielow club managed to lay the ghost of that nightmarish 90 minutes firmly to rest with an inspiring victory on their return to the South Lanarkshire venue thanks to stunning second-half goals from Ross Forbes and Jai Quitongo.
There was just one change to the team that drew 1-1 with St Mirren on Saturday as Jim Duffy named new signing Aidan Nesbitt in his starting line-up.
Celtic starlet Nesbitt joined the club on loan from the Parkhead outfit this afternoon and was handed an immediate debut in place of Jamie McDonagh, who dropped down to the bench.
Recent recruit Kudus Oyenuga took part in the pre-match warm up but that would be the full extent of the striker’s involvement as international clearance is yet to be received.
For Accies, ex-Ton man Dougie Imrie, who netted twice for the team in blue and white hoops in the aforementioned defeat in May 2014, was included from the start.
Imrie might well have bagged a hat-trick that day had he taken the penalty awarded, but when he went down under a Lee Kilday challenge inside the box after seven minutes tonight there was no doubt the veteran would take charge this time.
And he made no mistake from 12 yards, stroking a cool spot-kick straight down the middle as former team-mate Derek Gaston guessed wrong by going to his left.
It was a nervy opening quarter hour for the visitors, but they soon found their feet and went on to look the far more dangerous side for the majority of the half as they bossed proceedings.
After a few near things, Jai Quitongo was presented with a terrific opportunity when sent racing clear by Michael Tidser’s measured pass over the top on 20 minutes.
The jet-heeled teenager turned on the afterburners as he sprinted away from a high Accies back four and then slowed to send a precise finish inside the right-hand post, but goalkeeper Remi Matthews was equal to the effort and plunged down low to his left to parry.
Norwich City loanee Matthews was really earning his keep at this stage, following up with a smart save to thwart Kilday, who did well to get his head on the end of a teasing Forbes corner, before grasping a Nesbitt snapshot.
Gaston was required to follow suit and duly did so with sharp reflex stops to twice deny Louis Longridge, but the action was focused at the opposite end.
After clipping the top of the crossbar at St Mirren on Saturday, Tidser couldn’t quite believe his luck as he watched Matthews first push clear his powerful diving header before a delicate cut volley rebounded off the bar.
Despite that sustained pressure, the Greenock men went in at the break trailing and could consider themselves wholly unfortunate to have done so.
Accies boss Martin Canning’s decision to make a change at half-time, bringing on star man Massimo Donati in place of Steven Boyd, was telling.
However, the Ton picked up where they left off right from the restart and were back on level terms before the hour thanks to a sensational Forbes set-piece.
The midfielder stepped up 22 yards out, slightly to the left of centre, and whipped a wonderful free-kick across his body, over the despairing dive of Matthews and inside the right-hand upright.
Morton weren’t content with parity, though, and, within four minutes of equalising they scored again to turn the tie on its head and send the 442 travelling supporters – and the squad members sat in the mainstand – to dreamland.
Forbes sent Quitongo scampering clear down the inside-right channel with an intelligent clipped pass and the 18-year-old did the rest, taking a touch on his thigh to push the ball out in front of himself before lashing a wicked swerving strike into the far corner.
It was an unstoppable shot that took the young hitman to three goals in three League Cup starts, and he produced the same acrobatic somersault celebration seen against Kilmarnock and Berwick Rangers.
Hosts Hamilton piled on the pressure in the closing stages as they desperately sought the equaliser required to take the tie to extra-time, but, besides one Gaston save from a Mikey Devlin header, the visitors’ goal was never truly threatened.
This was a stellar showing by the Championship side and the fact they fought back from behind to claim another top-flight scalp was testament to the strength of character and spirit so often demonstrated by this group.
Their reward is a place in the final eight, and they will look forward to tomorrow night’s draw – live on BT Sport following the conclusion of the Celtic-Motherwell tie – believing they are capable of reaching the semis if they can reproduce this type of display.
6. Doyle 2. Kilday (c) 4. O’Ware 3. Lamie
10. Lindsay 8. Forbes 12. Tidser 11. Nesbitt
Subs used: McDonagh (for Quitongo, 80), McAleer (for Oliver, 90), and Tiffoney (for Nesbitt, 90+4).
Subs not used: Scullion, Tennent, Strapp, McNeil (gk).
Booked: O’Ware (40), Quitongo (45+1), Forbes (73).
Hamilton Accies (4141): Matthews; Gillespie, Sarris, Devlin (c), Kurakins (Lyon, 32); MacKinnon (Roy, 75); Imrie, Docherty, Crawford, Boyd (Donati, 46); Longridge.
Subs not used: Want, Cunningham, Tierney, Woods (gk).
Booked: Kurakins (26), Sarris (40), Crawford (70), MacKinnon (73).
Referee: Stephen Finnie
Attendance: 1,112 (442 away fans)
Photographs: David Bell