Peter Houston berated his players’ second half display and called it “rubbish” after they twice conceded the lead to draw with Raith Rovers.
His assessment is a little harsh given a flamboyant first 45 minutes, but it’s also quite astute in how the Bairns fell away after the break.
When Raith equalised through ex-Bairn Mark Stewart the momentum was all with the visitors. Falkirk, on the other hand had poured forward in the first half, linking passes and generally threatening Kevin Cuthbert’s goal.
They only conceded through a freak goal in the slippery conditions, but they played with no fear of a slip-up in the snow before the break
and roved forward.
But this, in hindsight was a slip-up – losing two goals at home for only the second time this season.
The opportunity was there to make up ground on the two teams ahead of the Bairns in the Championship, Hibs and Rangers, who also drew their matches. Falkirk are steadily falling back from their outside position on the Championship race, though are firmly in the play-off picture.
The Bairns were in defence for a large portion of the second half and only gained respite by Kyle Benedictus’s red-card for a lunge on sub
Myles Hipplyte. The structure of the team had fallen away, the midfield backed into defence as Rovers poured forward and in the end a draw was, probably, a fair reflection of the game.
But you wouldn’t have reckoned so on 45 minutes.
Falkirk burst forward. Craig Sibbald was direct and Lee Miller was knocking down lay-offs for fun – particularly from Aaron Muirhead’s long passes. The build-up was good and the Bairns went ahead when Blair Alston notched his fourth goal against the Fifers in the 14th minute, gliding onto Miller’s through ball and ending with a classy finish. The players marked the goal by dedicating their celebrations to returning media man Gordon McFarlane, at the ground for the first time since a stroke in July.
The play would have brought a smile to their ardent supporter’s face. It was all positive even after the Rovers levelled in farcical circumstances via a ricocheted clearance off James Craigen which slid into the net.
But still the Bairns went forward and Alston’s clipped free-kick was converted by David McCracken on 20 minutes, and two after the same duo had combined at a corner, though Cuthbert matched the captain’s low header.
It had been an enjoyable first half. Peter Houston praised his players for it, but in the second, after attacking for the opening five minutes the Bairns fell away.
“In the conditions first half we played them perfectly, up on every second ball, creating chances winning everything
up front with Lee Miller. Second half we didn’t win a second ball.
“Too many players dropped their standards second half. Ill-discipline, charging all over the place, so I’m really annoyed for the second half performance.
“I thought in the second half we were rubbish.”
Falkirk’s midfield, which has dominated the vast majority of games this season, melted away with the snow. The shape and structure of the team was unclear and led to the substitution of John Baird – barracked by the Bairns boss for failing to hold up the ball – and Alston, then Mark Kerr. Tom Taiwo’s busy scurrying over the park emphasised just how important Kerr’s natural positioning is to Falkirk, and the sub covered a lot of ground reprising his role in the middle.
But Rovers levelled when Stewart beat the ofside trap and stroked past Rogers for another equaliser and the momentum was all with Raith. Falkirk, from a position of dominance, faded and couldn’t score late on when Raith had nine men as Jason Thomson went off with a broken nose.