St Mirren 3 Falkirk 1 : Bairns back to earth with a bump in stormy defeat

Nathan Austin gave Falkirk an early lead. Pic by Michael Gillen.
Nathan Austin gave Falkirk an early lead. Pic by Michael Gillen.

Jack Ross’ Saints took the wind out of flying Falkirk’s sails at a blustery Paisley 2021 Stadium.

Falkirk opened the scoring within two minutes when Nathan Austin turned in from close range, but a first-half response from Stelios Demetriou was aded to in little time after the break by Cammy Smith. Gavin Reilly extended the advantage on 69 minutes.

Austin knocked in after Rory Loy's effort was saved. Picture Michael Gillen.

Austin knocked in after Rory Loy's effort was saved. Picture Michael Gillen.

At times it was a stormy encounter. Mark Kerr and Stephen McGinn snarled at their opposition over indiscretions, while Peter Houston and James Fowler’s arguement in the dug-out blew up and saw goalkeeping coach Derek Jackson sent to the stand, though he seemed to be playing peacemaker between the pair.

Aaron Muirhead was sent off with 13 minutes to go over an aerial clash with Saints scorer Stelios with Don Robertson claiming an elbow was used. Falkirk had been flying in the Betfred Cup and continued their ascent within a minute of the game, the Bairns streamed forward and a clever effort from ex-Saint Rory Loy almost caught Craig Samson out. The goalkeeper slapped the chip out but only to Nathan Austin who headed at goal. The ball seemed to cross the line, and was awarded by ref Don Robertson, though Alex Harris

also knocked it in again after Samson scrambled to keep the striker’s effort out.

Myles Hippolyte was dancing on the wing, Joe McKee was charging from midfield and Austin and Loy were occupying the Paisley defence. The busy away end was pleased with what they saw.

Aaron Muirhead was sent off for an elbow. Picture Michael Gillen.

Aaron Muirhead was sent off for an elbow. Picture Michael Gillen.

It could have been more too. Loy curled a shot at Samson’s top corner just woide from an Alex Harris corner and Austin should have burst the net after a clever Loy step-over put him clear, but he made poor connection to the 16th minute strike.

Austin also shpould have scored just befpore the half-hour after being put through form a lovely ball by Joe McKee, but Samson stopped again. Austin could have gone down for a conceivable penalty claim, as he later cpould have in the second half but the forward’s knack of bustlign forward and chasing lost causes saw his honest endeavours unrewarded other than his early opener.

That early goal, coupled with Falkirk’s cruise through the Betfred Cup group stage could have contributed to their downfall.

Saints scored then second goal conceded by the Bairns this term just after the half hour and suddenly Falkirk were in unfamiliar territory. It was uncomfortable territory too. From Stelios Demitrious strike from the edge of the box – which Alex Harris should have cut out, the Bairns fell away and St Mirren surged. The turnaround was significant.

Peter Houston said he had "no complaints" over the referee decision. Picture Michael Gillen.

Peter Houston said he had "no complaints" over the referee decision. Picture Michael Gillen.

Saints were bolshy and immediately on top. A flare-up in the dugout between Peter Houston and James Fowler saw the Falkirk boss cross into the opposition dugout and continue their arguement. Derek Jackson got between the pair to split them up, only to be grappled by Saints coach Allan McManus as attention turned to the tunnel. Don Robertson sent Falkirk’s goalkeeping coach – the intended peacemaker – to the stand, along with the home assistant, in a stormy end of the first half.

Saints though, followed Falkirk’s lead in scoring straight from the kick-off and this time Falkirk failed to respond.

Gavin Reilly crossed for Cammy Smith to take advantage of Robbie Thomson’s fumble to shoot under the goalkeeper and through the pair of defenders protecting the goal-line.

The Buddies had tweaked their gameplan perfectly and Joe McKee’s bursting runs from the midfield were curtailed and both wide players Hippolyte and Harris fell out of the game. Falkirk were lolling and the Saints made them pay the price. The previous cohesion and fast-paced build-up and understanding had evaporated and they were overcome by Saints’ goal, and confidence, in the second half.

Early on the Falkirk fans liked what they saw, but it all fell away for the Bairns. Picture Michael Gillen.

Early on the Falkirk fans liked what they saw, but it all fell away for the Bairns. Picture Michael Gillen.

Defeat was bad enough but it got worse as Rory Loy was substituted after a collision with Jack Baird. Holding his hip, he was replaced by Lee Miller three minutes after the goal.

Austin had another go bulldozing through but again Samson stopped the forward, the chance was the exception rather than the rule second half and five minutes later the Bairns backline was breached again when a long ball from the Saints’ right found Gavin Reilly and he fired in a carbon copy of Stelios’ equalising strike.

Falkirk were rocked and the task became almost unsurmountable when Aaron Muirhead was sent off for an elbow on the Saints’ Cypriot scorer, and will miss Tuesday’s Betfred Cup game with Livingston if it is deemed violent conduct.

Austin was replaced by Luca Gasparotto

to ensure the deficit wasn’t any more significant and with Saints flying and as confident as the Bairns had been after just two minutes it could have been.

There have been enthralling comebacks between the Bairns and the Buddies at this ground before but though Falkirk’s ten men were battling, they were far from a threat.

From flying through the Betfred and early stages of this game, they were brought back to earth faster than the planes overhead bound for the nearby airport.

Click here for the SPFL Championship table.

St Mirren: Samson, Irvine, Demitriou, Irvine, McGinn, Sutton, MacKenzie, C. Smith, Morgan, Baird, McShane, Reilly. Subs: Stewart, Buchanan, Kirkpatrick, Stewart, Whyte, O’Keefe, Eckersley.

Falkirk: Thomson, Muirhead, Grant, Gallacher, Watson, Hippolyte Kerr, McKee, Hippolyte, Harris ( Shepherd), Austin ( Gasparotto), Loy( Miller).

Subs:

O’Hara, Craigen, Mitchell, Taiwo.