Dumbarton 2 Falkirk 1: Bairns beaten

Falkirk's malaise continues as Peter Houston's Bairns fell to a disappointing defeat to Dumbarton.

Saturday, 17th December 2016, 5:43 pm
Updated Sunday, 18th December 2016, 1:09 pm
Peter Grant made an overdue return to the Bairns' first team. Pic by Michael Gillen

The first half held much optimism for the visitors who controlled the majority of the opening 45 minutes, but went behind on the stroke of half-time to a bizarre own goal from Aaron Muirhead.

The response from Craig Sibbald was not long in levelling matters when Garry Fleming gave the Sons the lead for the second time with a counter attack.

The Bairns layed siege to the Sons' goal late on and Scott Shepherd blasted a six yard shot wide when it looked easier to score, and the Bairns fell further behind in their Championship chase which is becoming more unlikely by the week.

It had started so well for the Bairns too, with Peter Houston making three changes to the starting line-up after a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Queen of the South last week.

John Rankin, Luca Gasparotto and Luke Leahy fell to the bench to be replaced by Tom Taiwo, Peter Grant and Tony Gallacher, and the latter two lasted the full 90 minutes in impressive and overdue returns to first-team action. Grant looked like he'd never been away - heading everything in sight, hollering at his team-mates and making his usual uncompromising clearances.

He, and David McCracken were camped on the half-way line for much of the first half as Falkirk played their game in the attacking area of the pitch.

They could not, however, break down a disciplined Dumbarton defence and Alan martin was, for all the Bairns' control of the game, rarely tested and unchallenged by the visitors' attempts.

The play gave cause for optimism, the momentum was all with the Bairns and a goal would surely come from their possession sooner or later. But the lack of spark up front was punished on the stroke of half-time when Aaron Muirhead turned in a Joe Thomson corner.

The defender had done well to knock the ball clear for the corner with Robert Thomson threatening at the backpost but seconds later the Bairns were behind and the Sons, having been hanging onto a 0-0 draw for much of the first half now really did have something to defend and the Bairns had to respond.

After the break they attacked with added impetus and had a go at Martin's goal but the goal didn't come until a long throw from Myles Hippolyte fell to Craig Sibbald on the edge of the box and he drilled the equaliser through a cluster of players, through a few legs, and into the corner of the net.

It lifted the grumbling away support and for a minute or two the Bairns' tails were up, but a swift move by Dumbarton switching play from their right side to the left via Sam Stanton with Falkirk on the front foot caught them out at the back and Garry Fleming advanced by Aaron Muirhead to prod past Danny Rogers for the goal that ultimately won the game and a vital three points for the Sons with other sides around them in the SPFL Championship all drawing.

Falkirk pitched in James Craigen and Scott Shepherd for Taiwo and Lee Miller and continued to press for their second equaliser, but it didn't come, though Scott Shepherd will still be wondering how he missed John Baird's cut-back which the flame-haired substitute blasted by the post from all of five yards and seconds left in the game.