Pressure is off the Bairns, for the time being

Picture Michael Gillen. Falkirk players and staff thank fans for their support. Peter Houston.
Picture Michael Gillen. Falkirk players and staff thank fans for their support. Peter Houston.
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Peter Houston joked he wouldn’t have liked to have his heart-rate tested as Falkirk’s epic Championship campaign drew to a close on Sunday afternoon. The pressure, he says, can now wait.

It was a nervous conclusion to the chase for second place, with Morton going gung-ho for a draw and Falkirk holding on for the victory that secured second.

The pressure is off Falkirk now, for a little while as they wait to see who they’ll face in the Premiership play-off semi-final; Hibs or Raith Rovers.

The players can take in Wednesday’s first leg with their feet up, while the play-off schedule, revised for TV coverage on BT sport will give either Ray McKinnon or Alan Stubbs five games in just 12 days.

That’s why Houston was delighted to secure a week off and second spot.

“The playoffs schedule doesnt matter to us now, Tuesday and Friday suits us (next week).

“If we’d have drawn and Hibs had won we’d have been in for a recovery (today, Monday) trained Tuesday and had the game Wednesday. Then it’d be recovery Thursday, prepare on Friday and then a game again on Saturday. Then it’d have been similar the following week for the following game. It doesn’t favour the championship teams in any way. But we put up with it because TV dictates things.

“I’ve said publically it’s too weighted in the Premiership favour. I think it should be 11th versus fourth and second against third. Then a final is played, that’d make it easier.”

For a little while the Bairns can take stock, and for a little while Houston can step off the front line of a dramatic campaign which has seen a three-way tussle at the top between the Bairns, winners Rangers and third-placed Hibs.

It’s a championship chase, which has dominated the back pages on the pitch, and off it. The Bairns boss, though, laughed off the to-and-fro comments from his rivals as “a bit of banter” and insisted they’ll have to work harder to get at him.

Houston has used his managerial experience to lead Falkirk to an enviable record, but he’s also put his experience to good use to deflect the comments and ignore any extra pressure being implied on him, or his side.

He added: “You always turn the pressure away. I’ve tried to turn it on Hibs, and I totally understand Stubbsy doing the same and that’s why I turned it on him with my beautiful round of golf!

“It’s pantomime at times, the pressure was on us at the weekend against a very good side in Morton. But the peessure can now wait.

“Alan was cute earlier in the season trying to noise Mark (Warburton) up. If it gets them noised up great but he is working here with an old 58-year-old guy who doesnt get noised up as easy and I don’t bite to things like that because I’ve been in the game a long time.

“We’ve always had a cup of tea after games and it’s all fine, it’s banter. I have nothing against any manager in the league, I know how tough it is to be a manager in this league. I know from my time as manager of Dundee United, this league is every bit as tough as the Premier. every game can be a battle.

“It’s been a long season, but if someone had said then we’d have finished second I’d have been thrilled at the time and credit to the players.”