Falkirk 2 St Mirren 2: Off colour Bairns secure play-offs

Lee Miller levelled for Falkirk in the first half. Picture Michael Gillen.
Lee Miller levelled for Falkirk in the first half. Picture Michael Gillen.

Falkirk played poorly but are assured of their place in the promotion play-offs after this point.

Super sub Bob McHugh rescued the Bairns again with a leveller late-on – with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a sub.

Miller steered in Luca Gasparotto's knock-down. Picture Michael Gillen.

Miller steered in Luca Gasparotto's knock-down. Picture Michael Gillen.

The Bairns pressed for a winner following it, but a draw was a fair result for both sides’ efforts.

Falkirk,for the second week running, were slow out of the blocks.

And they were punished very early on, with ex-Bairn Rory Loy thumping the Saints ahead after just six minutes.

The Bairns defence should have cleared but crosses into the box for the duration of the first half caused panic across the back-four who did not look comfortable with Loy up against Luca Gasparotto and Peter Grant wrestling John Sutton.

Miller made way for Bob McHugh who duly scored with his first touch. Picture Michael Gillen.

Miller made way for Bob McHugh who duly scored with his first touch. Picture Michael Gillen.

That said Robbie Thomson was an assured presence for the Bairns in goals and continued the excellent start to his

Falkirk career. Both Saints goals gave the keeper no chance and he was called upon early when Mark Kerr’s slack pass to Luke Leahy was picked off by Kyle Magennis, but the Saint blasted straight at the Bairns keeper.

It was a sign of things to come and moments later they were ahead.

Saints now have a realistic chance to escape the drop, and they fought for their lives. And outfought the Bairns.

Falkirk didn’t get into gear until well into the game, but by that stage they were level.

A James Craigen free-kick looked over-hit and Gasparottokept it in play at the backpost. He side-footed across goal and Lee Miller rammed home from close range to level.

Miller’s presence was missed at Tannadice last week but his return gave Falkirk an injection of experience and guile, not to mention strength to battle against the likes of Gary McKenzie. It also helped with his link-up play and a clever reverse pass sent John Baird in, but a scuffed shot was bundled out by the

Saints defence.

The

Bairns were fortunate to go in level at the break, with many of the

home sidelooking off colour and a non-existent midfield being over-powered by the Paisley side.

Stevie Mallan saw a free-kick well held by Thomson moments before the interval, and hit another one after the break that struck the top of the

Falkirk defensive wall.

The midfielder had scored a cracker of a set-piece here last year, but it was his midfield partner, Stephen McGinn’s turn.

Lee Miller was among the defence, mucking in to try and move the

Bairns forward, but his headed clearance couldn’t help and Saintsplayed the ball to McGinn who thumped in a cracker from more than 25yards into the top corner in front of the Paisley fans.

Peter Houston pitched Fraser Aird and Nathan Austin in for Mark Kerr and John Baird.

However it was a change with 13 minutes to go that proved Houston’s salvation. Lee Miller cramped up and was replaced by Bob McHugh and the super sub, who burst into life at this stage of last season reprised the role with his first touch levelling the scores at 2-2.

By this time Falkirk were camped in front of the south stand trying to force home enough to ensure Hibs wouldn’t be mathematically certain of the SPFL Championship title today.

It looked like it had come with a lovely finish by Craigen with four minutes to go, but ref Craig Thomson had blown for an infringement and so the title is heading for Easter Road after all.

In truth Falkirk hadn’t done enough to win, and Morton’s defeat at Raith Rovers gave some significance to the point gained, ahead of Dundee United’s evening kick-off with Ayr United.

Falkirk are however in the play-offs courtesy of Hibs’ win against Queen of the South.