KIERAN Duffie wasn’t even on the pitch when the only goal of the game was scored - but he played a pivotal role in it.
The right-back was sacrificed in an attacking substittion by Steven Presley as he sought to seize the initiative after Morton were reduced to nine men.
Until that point Falkirk had huffed and puffed but failed to find the visitors’ net. Exit Duffie, enter Mark Stewart and a back-post volley two minutes later put the Bairns on course to a vital win.
“It was a good substitution,“ said Duffie whose afternoon finished on 73 minutes. “Mark is always capable of that, he’s a good finisher and he showed it with his first touch and given us a vital win.”
Stewart was missing from the starting line-up as was the suspended Brian McLean, replaced by new loan signing Ross Perry.
And both received praise for their roles in the hard-fought win. “I play beside Ross Perry in the Scotland under-21s and he’s a very good player, here to get some games under his belt qnd he’s done really well on his first SFL game,” said Duffie.
“Ross did really well and I’m pleased he even got his cut in his eyebrow,” said boss Steven Pressley, “I think that’s the mark of a good centre-half!
“He settled in really well, and Mark Stewart really sent a message to me with his performance from the bench.
“It was a tough decision for me to leave him out but he responded, not only by his goal, but even with two minutes to go he was in the left-back position battling.”
That Stewart was required to chase back in the closing stages proves how stubborn Morton were. By that stage the Greenock side were down to nine men after a second half flare-up prompted seven cards to be shown by David Somers.
Stewart’s introduction on the back of a second yellow card to Morton’s Michael Tidser in the angry five minute spell saw the striker score his second match-winner in two games.
It should have been easier though. Carl Finnigan was guilty of missing two great opportunities in the first half to cap off one of the striker’s best showings of the season.
A dreadful back pass by Morton’s Darren Young gave the striker a clear run on goal, but on his return from suspension, he blazed over.
He glanced a header wide when power would have sunk the ‘Ton just before half-time.
Then it was 0-0 and Robert Olejnik had also played his part, holding Carlo Monti’s curling free-kick and meeting Allan Jenkins’ six-yard half-volley that he expertly tipped over the bar.
Pedro Moutinho - on his third home debut - hit one from a similar distance after the break, sending the ball into the turf then onto the top of the bar then Falkirk started to mount through Kieran Duffie and Jack Compton on the right.
The pair have the heels to get beyond defences and have developed a quick understanding that will be crucial to complement similar between Marc Twaddle and Ryan Flynn on the opposite wing.
Acting as right wingers they sent in a multitude of crosses that weren’t converted and Morton responded by hacking down Compton in full flight.
Monti’s was a horrible challenge and the melee prompted the Bairns’ key change.
However Mark Millar’s involvement in the aftermath of the challenge saw him booked and later needlessly sent off for a hip-check in the closing stages, ruling him out of the Dunfermline game.
But even the red card couldn’t wipe the relieved smile from Steven Pressley’s face. “Mark’s red card takes the shine off a bit but he was outstanding, he shows what we want - energy and desire and I feel for the wee man.
“He’s a whole-hearted dynamic player but I wouldn’t change him.
“The word I’d use for the team is hugely professional. This is a really hard league and Morton were unbeaten in six games before now. We were patient and thankfully things went to plan.”
Ross Perry, who was off the field for six minutes before the red-card received seven stitches to his eyebrow after a clash of heads with Derek Lyle, who received two of his own.