Sports Editor David Oliver reflects on a stormy Saturday that saw Ray McKinnon given the sack after a 1-1 draw with Dumbarton.
The Killers are to play Falkirk – but better get Britney Spears on back-up because Saturday turned things toxic.
A baying Bairns mob barracked the players at the tunnel as they trudged off at the interval, spilling over onto pitchside in an unedifying, over-the-top and ultimately embarassing spectacle.
What was it meant to achieve? The distasteful chants against the manager, the left-back, the directors, had already been heard loud and clear. A paying fan’s perogative perhaps. But to have foaming at the mouth fans falling over stewards and barriers was counter-productive intimidation of evidently shell-shocked players already a goal behind and unable to string two passes together for the past 15 minutes. Hardly encouragement to boost confidence or improve in the following 45 minutes.
They didn’t. But it was the fans’ turn to be shell-shocked in the second half as Louis Longridge, the first half’s main attacking threat was sacrificed with architect in chief Charlie Telfer in what proved to be Ray McKinnon’s final throes to save his Falkirk career. That the fans turned on the substitutions two weeks after criticisng the manager for NOT making enough changes indicated his untenable position in their minds – as if the chants hadn’t done that already.
The display, with a late penalty from Declan McManus to paper over the cracks, was enough to end the manager’s tenure with Falkirk fourth in the table, three points behind leaders Airdrie, and a game ahead of Raith Rovers and East Fife above them. Cruicially, they still have five and a half months to play after finally wielding the axe following weeks of growing disquiet descended into the cacophony of chaos at 3.45pm in Dumbarton.
Baby one more time? The under-fire board needs success with Ray’s replacement or it’ll be oops they did it – again.
The new figure, or figures, will become the Bairns’ sixth manager, including caretakers, inside 26 months and will be required to lift a very capable squad to acceptable performance levels far beyond those of Dumbarton. They will have to rebuild confidence dented, not just by results, but by the unbecoming scenes witnessed of Saturday.
Early signs were positive, but after Isaac Layne turned in a cross from ex-Bairn Joe McKee the writing was on the wall and the air turned blue. The lack of support from the stands showed there was no way back. The venom and vitriol prompted quick action on Saturday night, but was a build-up over many of those 26 months since Peter Houston that was being vented but misdirected at players who have been involved in less than 20 per cent of that time.
Their input must improve. More goals must be scored when opportunities are created like Falkirk did early on. They must handle the knocks, and the ‘blips’, better. They are capable of it.
Then, by the time the Killers come to town at the end of May, Bairns fans may actually ‘smile like they mean it’. Until then, as Britney says, “you gotta work...”