Sunday was All Saints’ Day, but Falkirk ensured Saturday was Fall Saints Day as they dismissed the Paisley Buddies in a comprehensive voictory that sends them comfortably into the play-off positions.
The 617 Saints supporters headed back to Paisley after this Hallowe’en horror-show brought the spectre of a second relegation into sharper focus.
We will appeal Jack’s red but we are hopeful the referee will put his hand up
For their Falkirk counterparts, the team never missed a trick and it was a treat to savour. Peter Houston’s men are now comfortably in the play-off positions.
James McDonaugh, Falkirk assistant was in charge with the Bairns boss sitting out on his one-match ban.
The Bairns assistant said: “We backed up last week’s win at Dumbarton with a good performance today.
“It’s a good feeling and keeps us on course for our journey to the play-offs. It was good to keep a clean sheet against tough opponents and it stretches our lead over them.
“It was a real battle and a bit of an old-fashioned game.”
In the early stages, it looked as if it would be the visitors who would make the breakthrough, and a Calum Gallagher header gave warning of their intent. Peter Grant replied with a similar effort at the other end, and the openness of the first quarter was a welcome attraction.
Falkirk opened the scoring after 18 minutes through Craig Sibbald who beat an exposed Langfield when he headed home a chip to the back post from Baird. Neutrals might have felt it was somewhat against the run of play, but last week’s hat-trick hero Baird was full of confidence and causing all sorts of problems to the visitors’ rearguard.While Saints had the advantage in terms of possession, there was no denying that Falkirk used their share to better effect and looked solid at the back.
Saints knew what defeat would mean for them in terms of the points difference between the two sides and the contest between the two Bairds – Jack and John – was an intriguing one. The Bairn and Sibbald were combining well, and the former headed straight at Langfield from a Sibbald cross when he maybe should have done better. He is a street-wise striker and he appealed for a penalty after a clash with Goodwin that fell on deaf ears, before delivering a killer blow two minutes before the break.
A Vaulks cross found Baird in acres of space, with the Saints defence missing the injured Webster, and he beat Langfield. St.Mirren had enjoyed the majority of possession, but found themselves two down. It could have been worse, as McHugh had another chance just before the break, but shot tamely.
The old playground saying of “Next goal’s the winner” was never more appropriate than in this match. St.Mirren knew this and the introduction of McMullan for Howieson certainly gave them more of a cutting edge.
Mallan almost scored with an audacious effort from just inside the Falkirk half when he saw Rogers off his line. Falkirk looked on the back foot. A series of corners was defended with determination as the pressure on the Bairns defence was turned up. The game had similarities to the first encounter in Paisley, when one side came back from a two goal deficit. Falkirk were the side who did it then, and who knows what might have happened if St Mirren had scored an early second half goal this time around?
Referee Aiken became a figure of some controversy with his brandishing of cards, but there was a big debate over his seventh red of this season. Jack Baird handled the ball when he blocked McHugh’s chance of a breakaway. It was clearly a hand ball, but many would have debated the colour of the card which the official produced, after consulting his assistant.
The third and final strike came from Will Vaulks and it was an absolute screamer. He fired in an unstoppable long-range thunderbolt that stunned Langfield. He has done this so often that we have come to expect it- and the gymnastics that followed would not have been out of place in
Glasgow at the World Championships.
There was even more horror for the black and white Buddies when Craig Reid was dismissed for hauling O’Hara down, 24 hours into his Saints career..
This was a classic example of what really matters in terms of match statistics. Possession, corners, shots, shots on target- are all very well, but what really matters is goals.
Ian Murray said: “I don’t know if the red card cost us the game but it was a huge blow and it was harsh.
“The linesman has given it and everyone makes mistakes, but it was a huge moment in the game and you have to be sure about it.
“We will appeal Jack’s but we are hopeful the referee will put his hand up and say he got it wrong.
“Our defending was poor for the first two goals and the next three games will tell us whether we will be in the play-off mix or not.”