Rivals close gap on Forfar after poor display at Duffy’s Morton

Pic credit Christopher Coutts.

Pic credit Christopher Coutts.

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Forfar Athletic’s lead at the top of League One is just one point following their disappointing 2-0 defeat to Greenock Morton.

Jim Duffy’s Morton side - and Dunfermline - are now on 21 points apiece after Jon Scullion and Andy Barrowman netted in either half for the hosts on Saturday.

And there are now just two points separating the league’s top four, with Forfar sitting on 22 points and in-form Stanraer in fourth on 20.

Campbell made three changes to the side beaten 3-1 by Cowdenbeath in the Scottish Cup, with James Dale, Omar Kader and Danny Denholm all moving to the subs’ bench to be replaced by Stuart Malcolm, Chris Templeman and new loan signing Scott Smith.

The 4-4-2 formation of recent weeks was replaced with a 4-3-2-1 system that the players seemed unaccustomed to.

Teenager Scullion was the star of the show for Morton and he had the first chance of the game, firing a free kick just over Rab Douglas’s goal after 12 minutes.

The St Mirren kid then played Rangers loanee Robbie Crawford through on goal with a gorgeous pass, but Crawford couldn’t get a good effort away and Douglas was able to collect.

And the 19-year-old found himself deservedly on the scoresheet when he linked neatly with Barrowman, the latter screening a defender to allow Scullion to glide past a defender before sending a left-footed strike flying past Douglas, with a significant deflection on its way through leaving the ex-Scotland goalie bamboozled.

Forfar were struggling to get forward often and the hosts were in complete control of the game.

Scullion and Lee Kilday drew great saves out of Douglas who was showing just why his manager has been calling him the best in the league so often in recent weeks.

Morton were unlucky not to be given a penalty when top scorer Declan McManus was knocked to the ground by Malcolm before the Loons almost got themselves back into proceedings.

Stephen Husband fed Gavin Swankie down the left hand side, the skipper driving back inside before curling an effort towards the near post but Derek Gaston reacted quickly and denied Swankie his sixth goal of the season.

After the break Campbell set the troops out in the familiar 4-4-2 and it almost paid instant dividends, Gavin Malin breaking through the defence only to smash his effort into the side netting on 47 minutes.

Darren Dods had to leave the field for treatment following a clash with Barrowman, before the centre half headed wide from Smith’s corner.

But Barrowman went one better eight minutes later, slotting home after McManus had charged down a Mikey Dunlop clearance before playing Barrowman in on goal.

Swankie had a couple of chances to get the Loons on the scoresheet but Gaston was equal to both efforts, meaning this was only the third game this season in which Forfar have failed to get themselves on the scoresheet.

It went from bad to worse for Forfar with two minutes remaining when left back Jim Paterson was sent off for a challenge on Jordan Allan.

The performance was a far cry from that in the season’s earlier meeting between these sides, when Forfar ran out rampant 3-2 winners over the Ton in a game where the scoreline flattered the losing team.

Next up for Campbell’s outfit is a visit to local rivals Brechin City, who were in action last night (Tuesday) at home to Stirling Albion.

The manager will be hopeful of a similar result to the last derby meeting, when Forfar were 3-1 victors thanks to Denholm’s opener and Dale Hilson’s excellent double.

Hilson is now on eight goals for the campaign and will hope to make double figures soon.

Greenock Morton: Gaston, Kilday, Crighton, Bjekovic, Russell, O’Ware, Pepper, Crawford (Lamie, 79), Scullion (Allan, 79), McManus, Barrowman (Cairnie, 87).

Subs not used: McGowan, McCluskey, McNeil, Knight

Forfar Athletic: Douglas, Dunlop, Malcolm, Dods, Paterson, Malin (Denholm, 61), Templeman (Kader, 61), Husband (Dale, 82), Smith, Swankie, Hilson.

Subs not used: Salmon, James, Yates