Dundee 3-1 Falkirk

Paul Watston is all smiles after pulling Falkirk level. picture by Michael Gillen.
Paul Watston is all smiles after pulling Falkirk level. picture by Michael Gillen.

A display of ruthless finishing by Paul Hartley’s Dundee ensure there would be no repeat of Falkirk’s Scottish Cup heroics of last term.

The result was, of course, a disappointment but there was no shame in the side’s performance as Falkirk went toe to toe with the club from one division higher.

Falkirk, a club of similar size and stature as the Dens Park men, will be looking over the next season or two to emulate them and become a steady Premiership side.

And based on the evidence of Tuesday night, they are not far off it, matching Dundee in most areas of the park.

Only the guile of Gary Harkins and the clinical finishing of Kane Hemmings forced the sides apart.

The Bairns arrived at Dens Park in a rich vein of form, unbeaten since mid-October and perched nicely in third place in the Championship.

A play-off spot appears a certainty, so Peter Houston’s side were more than entitled to shift focus entirely to the Scottish Cup.

But it was the hosts who came out of the blocks quickest with Harkins trying to unpick the Falkirk defence on the edge of the box.

The visitors were soon into their stride as well, though, and kept their hosts pegged back in their own half.

Craig Sibbald’s cross was almost finished off by Aaron Muirhead but the midfielder couldn’t get hold of his shot.

The Bairns continued to pester Scott Bain’s goal and John Baird nearly caught the Dens Park ‘keeper out with a long range effort which caught a deflection before looping into his arms.

Despite sections of the home turf being relaid and resembling a patchwork quilt, both sides had no difficulty with the surface.

The ball remained on the deck which played into the influential Harkins’ hands.

Again he was at the centre of things as he picked out Nick Ross’s run between the static Falkirk defenders.

Ross failed to punish Falkirk, chipping high over Danny Rogers’ cross bar.

The Dundee fans had been growing livid with the officials for a series of offside calls which had gone against their side.

A few of those decisions had looked dodgy - but none more so than the call which gave Dundee the lead.

Hemmings looked to have strayed a yard offside when he met a through ball.

But the flag stayed down and the Dundee striker composed himself before firing a stunning effort in off the crossbar with the aid of a slight deflection.

The cup tie had crackled into life and Falkirk were level almost straight away.

Mark Kerr’s cross was met by Baird but he couldn’t force his effort over the line.

The Dundee defence were in a mess and Kevin Holt’s clearance on the line rebounded off Paul Watson and into the net.

If Harkins was Dundee’s talisman then Sibbald was Falkirk’s.

The youngster was at the heart of everything created by Houston’s side and he had a chance early into the second half to put his side ahead in the tie.

The winger waltzed into the Dundee box but, with the Dundee defence retreating and allowing him space, Sibbald failed to pull the trigger and the chance was gone.

And Falkirk were made to pay just moments later when Paul McGinn’s cross was finished off in emphatic style by Hemmings.

With Falkirk pressing forward there was always the chance they could leave gaps at the back.

And that’s the way it turned out as the hosts wrapped up the tie with a third.

Hemmings this time turned provider for Harkins who swept his effort out of Danny Rogers’ reach.

The Bairns had slipped out of the Scottish Cup but were far from disgraced.