Dundee United 1 Falkirk 0: Late goal sinks Bairns at Tannadice

Lee Miller tries to find a way through the Dundee United defence. (pic by Michael Gillen)
Lee Miller tries to find a way through the Dundee United defence. (pic by Michael Gillen)

A late Mark Durnan goal sealed three valuable points for Dundee United and consigned Falkirk to a second straight league defeat, despite a battling performance at a noisy Tannadice.

The result leaves The Bairns languishing in fifth place in the Ladbrokes Championship but boss Peter Houston insisted that he couldn’t fault his players.

“It’s a disappointing day because I felt we didn’t get what we deserved from the game. I can’t fault the players because their effort and their willingness to work hard was great.

“I thought it was a tight game but an entertaining watch for a neutral, despite the scoreline. Their goal is frustrating because we gave the ball away outside their own box and didn’t recover.”

The first-half of the match, played in front of a 7000 plus crowd was a scrappy affair with both sides seemingly incapable of stringing together the number of passes required to create a goalscoring opportunity.

The hosts started strongly - perhaps buoyed by the Bairns forcing them to shoot into their own fans in the first-half after winning the toss. Willo Flood, the anchor in the Terrors midfield, quickly asserted his dominance on the game with his typically tenacious style offering the visitors very little restbite in the opening exchanges.

Houston’s men were careless in possession early on but started to grab a foothold in the game with John Rankin firing the first real shot in anger on his return to Tannadice - a low swerving shot that arrowed beyond the post.

Craig Sibbald had a succession of chances during the remainder of the first-half but seemed to lack conviction each time as he failed to properly test the able Cammy Bell and the sides went into the break level.

The second-half continued in similiar “nip and tuck” fashion with both sides actively seeking the three points but not going all-out in fear of losing the match.

Falkirk’s biggest moment in the match came on the hour mark when Luke Leahy almost opened the scoring after gambling on a loose piece of defending from Frank Van Der Struijk at the back. Leahy profited on the weak header from the Dutchman but tamely nodded the ball into the hands of Bell when a greater connection would’ve rendered the former Rangers keeper helpless and broke the deadlock.

“I should have got more on the header”, the honest Leahy admitted after the game. “I anticipated that he was gonna head it back and I knew Cammy Bell was coming out but I just didn’t get enough on it really. It was one of those days.”

If Leahy’s chance was Falkirk’s biggest moment in the game, then United’s was soon to come - and again through an unlikely source.

When a Falkirk attack broke down in the final third and Paul Durnan cleared the ball, few expected the former Queen of the South man to be popping in the winner less than 15 seconds later. Durnan’s desire to lend a hand to his attacking teammates paid off in spectacular style as the centre-back pounced on a golden chance after a miss-hit from substitute Cammy Smith and rattled in past Danny Rogers.

To their credit, Falkirk fought till the death and almost got one of the late goals that have become a trademark of Houston’s side when Lee Miller hit the post. Despite being offside, the chance showed just how close Falkirk were to getting a point and the full-time whistle was greeted with a massive roar from the Tangerine faithful. It felt like a big result.

The Bairns will now turn attention to Saturday’s clash with Jim Duffy’s Morton. The Ton go into the game on a three match winning run and can leapfrog Houston’s men with a win at the Falkirk Stadium.