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Dumbarton 2 Morton 0: First foot but a backward step

IT was new year, new manager, new players, but same old hard luck story for Morton yesterday as they slipped to their seventh straight defeat and deeper into the SPFL Championship mire.

Kenny Shiels watched on from the dugout for the first time since taking over as the Cappielow manager - he had been in the stand serving a ban for his previous two games - yet the Northern Irishman's new vantage point will have failed to offer a more positive outlook than he has been used to of late as the Greenock club's hopes of surviving the grow look increasingly unrealistic.

Despite holding the bulk of possession with wave upon wave of charges into the Dumbarton half, Morton were ultimately undone by their own misfortune; a cruel penalty award seconds before half-time leaving them chasing a game which was forever out of reach, with Cowdenbeath looking likewise.

"We thought the penalty was harsh," said David Hopkin, the Morton assistant who spoke to the press as Shiels refused to break cover. "That is just the way things are going for us just now. Every game we play we seem to concede right on half-time. I think the manager will be looking to bring someone in over the next few weeks, someone who hopefully can start scoring some goals."

Garry O'Connor is the prime candidate for the role, with the former Hibernian forward, who warmed up with the team pre-match, waiting on international clearance before his move to Cappielow can be completed. Even without the controversial striker, Shiels still managed to field four debutants - Jamie McCormack, captain for the day David Robertson, Darren Cole and Rangers loan starlet Barrie McKay, with Ibrox manager Ally McCoist watching on from the stand.

McCoist would have been impressed with how his men fared, especially McKay, whose free role behind Kabba Modu Cham offered a directness and trickery to Morton's play. However, his influence failed to conjure any magic up front for the visitors, whose first shot on target came from substitute Aiden Fulton deep into injury-time.

In fact, the most noteworthy contribution from a Morton forward came from the appropriately named Reece Hands, who watched on helplessly as Chris Turner's shot crashed into his hand from five yards away. Referee Kevin Clancy had no hesitation and Bryan Prunty slotted the ball low into the bottom left corner.

It was much of the same from Morton in the second half as they pushed forward in search of the goal to stop them slipping nine points adrift of Cowdenbeath. It never arrived as Shiels' players lost their composure, shape and another late goal, debutant Chris Kane nodding in at the back post from a Colin Nish cross.

"We got goals at great times," admitted Dumbarton manager Ian Murray, whose team now sit seventh on 24 points. "We weren't at our best, but we ground out the result. We are now 15 points clear of a full-time team, which is fantastic for us."

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