Motherwell’s hopes of an extended Scottish Cup run were ended as Greenock Morton comfortably progressed to the quarter finals.
Start Kettlewell had warned that the trip to Greenock would prove a difficult cup tie and the ‘Well boss was proved correct as a goal in each half was enough to send an under performing ‘Well out of the Cup
There was nothing between the teams until ten minutes from the break when Liam Kelly’s disastrous attempts to deal with a corner ended with the ‘keeper tamely pushing the ball against the luckless Harry Paton and over his own goal line. Ten minutes into the second half Goerge Oakley doubled Morton’s lead and put he home side in the driving seat.
The ‘Well boss committed five subs in an attempt to prevent a shock exit to a Championship side for the second consecutive season. And six minutes from time Jack Vale pulled one back to set up a dramatic end to the game.
Overall, though, the Steelmen failed to match Morton’s desire and determination and can have no complaints about being on the wrong end of a Scottish Cup shock.
Incredibly this was the fifth time the teams had been paired in the Scottish Cup in seven seasons. And with Motherwell having emerged as winners in the previous four, Morton fans were convinced they were due a cup win over the Fir Park side.
Although both teams arrived at Cappielow full of confidence on the back of resounding 5-0 wins, ‘Well faced a Morton side on an excellent run of form, Dougie Imrie’s men boasting a 12 game unbeaten run, and quite rightly fancied to cause a cup upset.
Motherwell made one change from the from the emphatic win over Ross County, Lennon Miller coming in to the midfield as a straight replacement for Andy Halliday.
The Fir Park fans packed behind Liam Kelly’s goal watched Morton make a positive opening as the home side looked to go direct and test the ‘Well defence at every opportunity.
An early fumble from Kelly when he dropped an easy ball towards his goal, gave Morton encouragement to swing every ball onto the ‘keeper.
Although Motherwell settled into their passing game the Premiership side had a huge let off after 19 minutes.
A high ball into the box was nodded into the path of George Oakley, who got behind Calum Butcher before lifting his shot beyond Kelly’s stretch, only to watch the ball rebound from the face of the crossbar.
While the Steelmen were comfortable in possession, they lacked composure in the final third of the pitch, with Theo Bair too often isolated up front.
The game was highly competitive but needed a spark and it arrived in 35th minute when Morton took the lead.
It was a goal which Kelly will want to forget. Robbie Muirhead’s inswinging corner posed a real threat on the visitor’s goal but the ‘Well ‘keeper made a complete mess of things palming the ball against Paton and over his line and reinforce Morton’s belief that an upset was on the cards.
Conversely, while the Fir Park men ended the half around Ryan Mullen’s box, their play lacked a belief and conviction.
Although Motherwell aimed to regain possession and composure in the opening spell of the second half, they were dealt a killer blow ten minutes after the break.
Paul McGinn lost out in the middle of the park and as the ball was immediately sent forward to Oakley who surged into the box before firing the ball low across Butcher and Kelly and into the ‘keeper’s right-hand post for a solid finish and put the home side firmly in control of the cup tie.
Kettlewell immediately made a triple substation sending on full backs Adam Devine and Jili Buyabu, with Jack Vale joining Bair in attack.
That did fire some much needed life into the Steelmen and Buyabu’s low drive into the six box forced a first save from Mullen.
Andy Halliday and Jon Obika were then given 23 minutes to try and get ‘Well back into the tie.
And after passing up a few half chances which gave Mullen a couple of comfortable saves, ‘Well reduced the leeway with six minutes remaining.
Two of the subs combined with Devine firing the ball into the box before Vale’s touch directed it towards goal with a slight deflection carrying the ball beyond Mullen.
Although the Fir Park men pressed for an equaliser and caused some uncertainty in the home box, they never looked like finding an equaliser and sending the game into extra-time.