The return of Ray McKinnon to Cappielow, stoked up by grudge-bearing supporters of the home side and the crass and personal placards given away by the local newspaper on Clydeside was, all in all, much ado about nothing.
It threatened to be a hostile afternoon. It wasn’t. And Falkirk didn’t threaten anything either. Safety fears are all about the Bairns’ Championship status now.
Red cards? It was about the one shown by John Beaton to goalkeeper Leo Fasan and not those bearing Ray McKinnon’s mug shot waved by a handful of supporters.
Of course the jeers, chants and hisses greeted the Falkirk manager who watched his side defeated by his former players and his successor Jonatan Johansson, but it was still a lot more pantomime than what was prepared for.
Falkirk were flanked into and out of the ground. Banners were banned. Even the red card placards were few and far between and you couldn’t even bring a copy of that particular newspaper thorough the turnstile. The chants were offensive, but it was a relatively inoffensive game. All a bit tamer than what it was built up to be. And Falkirk were tame too, and never particularly on the offensive.
This wasn’t an explicitly bad performance, it just wasn’t a good one either. In relative terms for long-sufering fans it was a bit of a relief not to be swamped by the opposition.
With a full quota of men on the park Falkirk coped with Morton, and neither team excelled.
But the Bairns have struggled enough with 11 men on the field this season – any further hinderence is as unwelcome as it is unnecessary and when Fasan was sent off and Andy Irving sacrificed for David Mitchell, although the Bairns backline seemed more assured, the numerical disadvantage told after a while and Bob McHugh’s winning goal.
MATCH REPORT: Morton 1 Falkirk 0It could feasibly have been nine with Paul Paton treading a fine line in the midfield that weakened first with the substitution of Prince Buaben at half-time and then Irving’s removal three minutes later.
There is no doubt Falkirk are looking stronger, and more solid, than they did now McKinnon and Darren Taylor have had time with the team for almost two months.
No wonder they’re missed on Sinclair Street too because aside from the improvements to the Bairns from the very low base they picked up from, they had this Morton side – who failed to roll over the top of a poor but improving Falkirk – challenging at the top of the division before their much disputed defection to Westfield.
But with Alloa winning on Saturday and the Bairns drifting four points off ninth after a quarter of the season, what fans would give for a guarantee of a return to Greenock next term.
Falkirk need to find some offense, and tighten up the defence too, or safety concerns will turn to a real danger of the drop and less matches on the banks of the Clyde and more matches by the shore of the North Sea.