Falkirk 1 Montrose 0: Heavy weather win for the Bairns

Declan McManus had an afternoon as topsy-turvy as the weather as he scored his 21st goal of the season before being sent off in the second half.

By David Oliver
Saturday, 22nd February 2020, 5:17 pm
Updated Saturday, 22nd February 2020, 9:49 pm
McManus is congratulated. Picture: Michael Gillen.
McManus is congratulated. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Falkirk went top of the league the last time they defeated Montrose at The Falkirk Stadium, and looked like ascending the table again before late goals in Kirkcaldy for Raith Rovers kept them second.

As welcome as the league positioning was to read for much of the match, how the Bairns had got there wasn't so much.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Matchday BlogIt was a poor first half even though Falkirk went in ahead at half-time through a penalty that Declan McManus won and then converted, blasting low and hard down the middle from 12 yards. Goalkeeper Allan Fleming read the direction of the 20-goal striker's attempt at a 21st but couldn't keep it out, sending it in off the underside of the crossbar.

Andrew Steeves can't believe the penalty award. Picture: Michael Gillen.

The second was more dramatic with a penalty saved by Robbie Mutch and a red card for the Bairns striker and then a backs to the wall defensive show to ensure pace with Rovers is maintained ahead of the top of the table meeting in ten days time.

Montrose never really tested Robbie Mutch in the first half apart from a long ball that Ben Hall failed to head on and the goalkeeper had to rush from his line and was clattered by Craig Johnston, requiring treatment.

Stewart Petrie's players were restricted to playing on the break and found some success with through balls past Hall and Gregor Buchanan but they were a lottery, for both sides, with swirling wind and driving rain punctuated by spells of sunshine under the floodlights.

It was biting cold too in quite unpredictable conditions for players and that did not make for good viewing.

Lee Miller. Picture: Michael Gillen.

But the Bairns had the lead thanks to a foul on McManus by Andrew Steeves after Cammy Ballentyne's pass out of defence was straight to the striker who cut into the box from the left side.

After the break the Bairns were slightly brighter but still unable to extend their lead, a 65th minute charge by captain Buchanan had the fans on the edge of their seat and holding their breath as he glided forward like the similarly hair-styled Zlatan Ibrahimovic but made poor connection and scuffed the shot from 25-ayards wide.

Then, with conditions still unpredictable things became even more uncertain for the Bairns.

A Montrose corner was pushed onto the crossbar by Declan McManus, then forced in by local lad Russell McLean for the Mo. However Grant Irvine's whistle had gone before the ball crossed the line. He sent McManus off for handball, handed the visitors a penalty and Robbie Mutch beat mcLean's spot-kick away.

McManus hit his 21st of the season. Picture: Michael Gillen.

With ten men Falkirk switched system but still looked to attack, but without their 21-goal talisman their threat was more muted. Their position at the top of the table also wobbled in the aftermath with Raith taking the lead against Clyde through veteran Steven MacLean.

Falkirk brought on Mark Durnan and Rafa de Vita for Aidan Connolly and Morgaro Gomis, then Ian McShane replaced the injured Josh Todd but the Bairns held out as the swirling wind and rain returned.

It's as you were at the top with Lee Miller and David McCracken's side just one point off the Rovers at the top ahead of a midweek meeting on march 3 between the two. Next week Falkirk head to Clyde and Raith Rovers are at Dumbarton.

Morgaro Gomis took a sore one in the celebrations. Picture: Michael Gillen.
Declan McManus trudges off. Picture: Michael Gillen.
McManus made a great save on the line - but it'll cost him his place next week. Picture: Michael Gillen.
Captain Gregor Buchanan celebrates the full-time whistle. Picture: Michael Gillen.