Falkirk will spend Christmas at the bottom of the Championship tree after a 2-1 defeat to Dundee United at Tannadice on Saturday.
But the Bairns could have endured an even bigger nightmare before Christmas if it wasn’t for goalkeeper David Mitchell, who put in a fine performance to keep the score down.
Mitchell was required on several occasions, making a quite stunning save in the first period to tip Rachid Bouhenna’s smashed volley onto the crossbar.
The former Dundee man who, according to many in the press box and later confirmed by the man himself, loves playing at Tannadice – wasn’t done there.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED: Dundee United 2 Falkirk 1
In the second half, with Falkirk down to ten men, Mitchell made a top save low to his left to deny Frederic Frans and made a good save down low to deny Paul McMullan too. Without him, the hosts would have been out of sight.
As it was, Falkirk were still in the game at the end of a feisty affair.
Sam Stanton’s effort, deflected off Aaron Muirhead, left Mitchell helpless and gave United the lead, before Pavol Safranko doubled the advantage with aid from a poor attempt at a clearance from Marcus Haber – who was later subbed to much joy from the visiting supporters.
Paul Paton’s red card, which looks a bit worse in picture than video, despite still being an obvious sending off, meant that the last half an hour was an exercise in keeping the score respectable.
Mitchell excelled at that exercise, and did himself no harm at all as he aims to fight off Robbie Mutch and Leo Fasan to become permanent number one under Ray McKinnon.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Dundee United 2 Falkirk 1
Substitute Dennon Lewis appeared, took on all comers and won a penalty for Falkirk late on which Aaron Muirhead converted but it was too little and too late for the Bairns who, to be totally honest, would’t have deserved anything if they had grabbed an equaliser – a fact that Mitchell admitted himself after full-time.
As the statistics below will tell you, United dominated much of proceedings. Although Falkirk do, as McKinnon has said during the week, like to allow opponents possession and play on the counter-attack, counters were few and far between in this game.
United’s opener was lucky but they could have had more in a strangely busy but unexciting half, that provided plenty to write about without much real quality.
MATCH REPORT: Dundee United 2 Falkirk 1
And in the second half the hosts should have been out of sight before Falkirk’s late goal.
A moment of madness from Paul Paton against his old team came with his side 2-0 down and also means that he will miss the derby on Saturday – and he will be missed.
One positive is that there was nothing wrong with the fight shown, but perhaps a reminder of how big January will be for Falkirk.