Morton 1 Raith Rovers 0
On a day when all other Championship fixtures ended in a draw, Raith Rovers missed an opportunity to strengthen their top four position with a narrow defeat at Cappielow.
A hard fought game was decided by one moment of quality - a stunning free-kick from Morton midfielder Ross Forbes in the 18th minute - otherwise there was little between the sides.
It was not a particulary poor Raith performance - the visitors put a lot into the game and had Morton on the back foot for most of the second half - but certain aspects were below par.
Hesistant defending and turnovers in possession allowed Morton to gain an attacking foothold in the first half, and although Rovers pushed hard for an equaliser after the break, the link-up play in the final third wasn’t good enough to breach the home rearguard.
Raith boss Gary Locke said: “It was a frustrating game for us because, second half especially, I thought we were dominant.
“I couldn’t fault the players - they gave everything they possibly could - but just didn’t get that bit of lady luck in front of goal.”
For the first time in several weeks, Locke was able to name an unchanged 11 as he started with the same side that scored three in the first half against Dumbarton the previous week.
There was certainly a promising start as inside the opening minute, Ross Callachan broke through from midfield only to be denied by a last ditch tackle from defender Michael Doyle.
Callachan would be the driving force behind the Raith performance - his positive running from the middle of the park deserved a better outcome.
At the other end, Jai Quitongo was carrying a threat and when Kyle Benedictus dithered on the ball, the front man pounced to win possession, resulting in a foul being conceded 25 yards from goal.
Raith put all their big men in the wall, but free-kick specialist Forbes still managed to clip his effort over their heads and under the crossbar, leaving Kevin Cuthbert with no chance.
Raith tried to hit back immediately as Declan McManus, who was roundly booed by the home fans, along with Bobby Barr, on their return to Cappielow, hooked a volley over the bar.
However, the Greenock men were bouyed by their opener and for a period of 10 minutes, the Raith goal was under siege and fortunate not to be breached again.
Gary Oliver saw an effort deflected narrowly wide, and Raith only just surived the corner as the ball dropped invitingly in the goalmouth.
Oliver then drew a fine save from Cuthbert with a 22 yard drive before full back Mark Russell drove a ball across goal that Aiden Nesbitt was inches away from converting.
Raith broke forward and a Scott Roberts header was pushed wide by Andy McNeil, but from the corner, Morton broke upfield and Forbes was in the clear but from a narrow angle he blazed high into the terracing behind the goal.
Raith’s best move of the first half arrived on 37 minutes as Liam Smith’s ball down the line to Callachan saw the midfielder ride a tackle to sprint towards the box.
His pull back was deflected into the path of Roberts around the penalty spot, but the winger failed to live up to his wonder strike last week by sclaffing an effort over the bar.
In the last action of the half, Rovers somehow survived a blatant handball from defender Jean Yves-M’voto right on his 18-yard line as he flicked the ball away to stop Quitongo touching it past him.
Cuthbert was called into action inside two minutes of the second half as Oliver sped in from the wing and shot for the near post, but the Raith ‘keeper was equal to it.
M’voto was winning all the set piece balls played into the Morton box but was struggling to finding the target - a 50th minute header was the closest he came as the effort clipped the roof of the net.
There was a penalty shout for the visitors the big Frenchman was pushed to a clear push in the box, but referee Craig Charleston waved away the claims.
McManus had two big chances to silence the Morton boo boys.
The first arrived on 54 minutes as Smith sent an inviting ball into the box and the striker stole a yard on his marker to get a free header from six yards, only to put it over the bar.
Iain Davidson, who moved to right back after Smith limped off with a hamstring injury, then played the pass of the game on 68 minutes to pick out Barr on the left, and his cut back was knocked wide by McManus from 12 yards.
Raith continued to push but Kevin McHattie’s wild shot from a tight angle when the box was packed with team mates waiting for a cross was typical of the poor decision-making made in the final third.
With time running out, Rovers won a free-kick 30 yards out which sub Jordan Thompson took, only for the ball to moved forward 10 yards after the his effort struck a hand and spun towards McNeil, who took a hefty kick to the face as he gathered it and had to be replaced by Derek Gaston.
The sub ‘keeper’s first act was to dive to his left to push away McManus’ free-kick, before scooping up a tame rebound attempt from M’voto.
The lengthy treatment for McNeil meant there would be seven added minutes and we were deep into stoppage time when Gaston made another vital save, diving to gather Benedictus’ header as Morton held on for the three points.
Rovers managed to take 12 points from Morton last season - a record which went a long way towards claiming fourth spot - so this defeat could prove costly.
Despite their stuttering form, Raith will remain in fourth place over the international break unless Dundee United secure three points away to Hibs this afternoon.
Morton: McNeil (Gaston 89), Doyle, O’Ware, Gunning (Murdoch 38), Russell, McDonagh, Lindsay, Forbes, Nesbitt (Tiffoney 85), Quitongo, Oliver. Not used: Scullion, Orr, Strapp.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Smith (Thompson 67), McHattie, M’voto, Benedictus, Callachan, Davidson, Roberts (Johnston 66), Barr, McManus, Skacel (Stewart 60). Not used: Matthews, Coustrain, Brennan.
Referee: Craig Charleston