Falkirk 3 Dundee United 0: Bairns back in the race

Falkirk are right back in the race for the play-offs after an impressive win over Dundee United.

This Lee Miller 'goal' was ruled out but Falkirk were still convincing winners (pic by Michael Gillen)
This Lee Miller 'goal' was ruled out but Falkirk were still convincing winners (pic by Michael Gillen)

Bairns totally dominated the match against one of the so-called “Big Two” and won with ease. They have found that elusive consistency that seemed to have deserted them earlier in the campaign.

Falkirk took the lead after five minutes of evenly-contested play, when Lee Miller crossed from the right and John Baird stooped low to head powerfully past a helpless Luis Zwick in the United goal.

Peter Grant almost added a second minutes later, when he headed a James Craigen corner towards goal, but Zwick saved at point-blank range.

Falkirk were the more impressive side in attack and Myles Hippolyte set up Baird for a good chance, but he shot was straight at Zwick.

United were restricted in their opportunities and Danny Rogers hardly had a save to make in the opening 20 minutes.

Miller’s glancing header from a Craigen free kick wide on the right was only inches wide of Zwick’s right-hand post, as Falkirk continued to cause problems to the visitors’ defence.

Hippolyte and Miller combined well to set up Craigen, whose thundering volley from 30 yards out was not too far off target.

Paul Watson had to leave the field to have a head cut attended to, and in his absence United’s Mark Durnan, who had been left unmarked, headed wide from a free kick.

The first 30 minutes had seen Falkirk play some of their best football for a long time, but you sensed that more goals were needed to see off the opposition. Willo Flood was booked for a particularly fierce tackle on Craig Sibbald, but the popular midfielder resumed after treatment. The swirling wind was certainly causing problems for defenders and Falkirk sensibly elected to keep the ball on the ground wherever possible.

United’s first real chance fell to Mikkelsen from a right winger corner six minutes before the interval, after Tom Taiwo had headed clear, but it landed just over the bar, much to the relief of keeper Rogers and the home support.

Falkirk suffered a setback when Baird had to be substituted by Nathan Austin, after picking up what looked like a hamstring injury. The striker had been looking lively and back to his marauding best.

Referee Anderson seemed to be in a lenient mood as several robust challenges by United players went unpunished. Falkirk deserved their narrow interval lead and had looked by far the more committed side.

United started the second half in lively fashion and Andreu should have done better than sky a shot high into the away stand, following a promising move down the left. United’s Spittal had to be replaced by Murray after picking up what looked like a very serious leg injury.

A few minutes later, Austin was played through by Miller and was unceremoniously brought down by keeper Zwick. Aaron Muirhead drilled the resulting spot kick low into the bottom right hand corner of the net. The United keeper was shown a yellow card by the referee, while many thought a card of a different colour would have been produced.

United contributed to their own downfall, and to the exit of several of their fans, on the hour mark, when they failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to Craigen who scored from close range. Falkirk fans were cheering a fourth ‘goal’ when Miller headed home a free kick, but the referee ruled it out for offside. It looked a harsh decision.

Falkirk continued to play the better football, as United introduced ex-Bairn Stewart Murdoch to the fray. United looked a beaten side, and it was hard to remember that they were in runners-up place going into the match.

By contrast, Falkirk looked dangerous with every attack and seemed to have plenty more in reserve. The away support continued to drift away as the game petered out with Falkirk coasting to a comfortable win over one of their main rivals.

In the closing minutes, Grant almost added a fourth, but he headed a Craigen free kick straight at Zwick. An emphatic and deserved win and to be honest, Falkirk made it look easy - and that takes some doing against a side that were one of the pre-season favourites for automatic promotion. Falkirk are right back in there.