Saturday 17 September, 17.15, The Falkirk Stadium

The Scottish Championship tie between Falkirk and Dundee United.

The late kick off to accommodate BBC Alba’s live broadcast means that I can reach this in plenty time after seeing Camelon Juniors against Carnoustie Panmure earlier in the day.

Falkirk Football Club was founded in 1876 and they were elected to the Second Division of the Scottish Football League in 1902-03.  After promotion to the top league they achieved their highest ever league position when runner-up to Celtic in 1907-08 and 1909-10.

The club’s nickname is “The Bairns”, a Scots word meaning sons or daughters, which is given to natives of the town of Falkirk.

After several moves in their early years, they settled on Brockville Park as their home ground in 1885, where they stayed until 2003.  After the creation of the Scottish Premier League in 1998 the club was denied promotion on three occasions due to not meeting the stadium criteria to the top league.  They moved to their present home ground the Falkirk Stadium in 2003, a 7,937 all-seater stadium on the outskirts of the town.

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Falkirk won the Scottish Cup for the first time in 1913 and repeated the feat in 1957.  They’ve been runners-up 3 times including in 2015.

They have spent most of their more recent existence going between the top league and second tier and have won the latter on seven occasions while being runner-up 8 times. They last won promotion in 2004-05 and stayed there until relegation on the last day of 2019-10.  They just missed out on the play-offs in 2014-15 and finished second last season.  They defeated Hibs in the play-off semi-final, but lost out to Kilmarnock in the final.

Formed in 1909, Dundee United were originally known as Dundee Hibernian until they changed in 1923.  They’ve played in tangerine strips since the 1960s and are known as the Terrors, or Tangerines, with their fans known as the Arabs.

United have been at Tannadice Park since their foundation in 1909. Founder members of the Scottish Premier League in 1998, they were ever-present in the competition until it was abolished in 2013 to make way for the new Scottish Premiership.

Their peak came at the start of the 1980s under manager Jim McLean and they won the League Cup in 1979 and 1980, the Premier Division in 1982-83 and reached the semi-final of the European Cup in 1984 and the UEFA Cup final in 1987.  They have been regular competitors in European competition and have the claim to fame of having a 100% record against Barcelona in 4 European ties.  They won the Scottish Cup in 1994 and 2010 and have been runners-up 8 times.

United were relegated to the Scottish Championship after a 2-1 defeat away to local rivals Dundee at the end of last season, facing their first relegation from the top flight since 1995.

A point separated the teams before the game and they both haven’t started their league campaign the way they had hoped.  Falkirk have had two wins, two losses and draw and United have had two wins, two draws and a defeat. With United in fourth and Falkirk one place behind, they both can’t afford to fall any further behind the leaders.

Falkirk have goalkeeper Danny Rogers on loan from Aberdeen and have signed defender Luca Gasparotto from Rangers, left back Liam Henderson from Hearts, right back Lewis Kidd from Queen of the South and midfielders John Rankin from today’s opponents and James Craigen from Raith Rovers.

New United manager Ray McKinnon has been busy since taking over as manager at the end of last season.  He has signed midfielder Stewart Murdoch after his release from Ross County, goalkeeper Cammy Bell from Rangers, winger Tope Obadeyi from Kilmarnock, defender Lewis Toshney from Raith Rovers, midfielder Cammy Smith from Aberdeen, forward Tony Andreu from Hamilton Accies, defenders Frank van der Struijk from Williem II and William Edjenguele from Greek side Veria FC.  Also from Willem II is Nick van der Velden.

There were 5,488 in attendance.

United created the first chance in the third minute, a ball in from the right found Obadeyi on the left of the box.  He fired a low ball across which Murray controlled, chipped up and then hooked a shot which came off the top of the crossbar.

Kerr delivered a free kick into the United box from just in front of the away dug out in 8 minutes which went over the head of everyone in the middle, but McHugh chased the ball and seemed to be caught by Bell inside the box.  The referee wasn’t interested though.

Obadeyi broke down the right for United in 16 minutes and his cutback found Andreu, but off balance he could only hit the ball across the box.  It came to van der Velden whose shot was blocked by the chest of Rogers and Murray was onto it quickly, but could only volley over the bar.

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Following a Falkirk throw in 18 minutes, Kidd played the ball down the right to Taiwo who put a first time ball into the box and the diminutive Baird rose majestically in front of van der Struijk and headed the ball high into the top corner for the opening goal.

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United looked to reply quickly and Obadeyi’s ball from the right in 20 minutes found Murray in the box, but Taiwo blocked his effort.

Hippolyte put a dangerous ball into the box in 27 minutes, but it was just too far in front of Baird for the Falkirk striker to get a touch.

A good ball over the top by United’s Telfer seconds later had Obadeyi racing into the box, but Leahy was back quickly to nip in front of him and hook the ball away from the Falkirk goal.

In 30 minutes, McHugh headed the ball down to Hippolyte who played the ball to Taiwo on the right.  His cross picked out McHugh in the box and his downward header came off the base of the post with Bell in the United goal a spectator.

Straight up the other end and van der Velden raced down the left before cutting the ball inside for Andreu, but Rogers was down quickly to block his shot.

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A ball down the right in 33 minutes by van der Struijk picked out van der Velden and his low ball across the six-yard box found Obadeyi sliding in the equaliser.

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With 39 minutes gone, Flood brought the ball out of the United half and fed Murray.  He played it left to Robson who played the ball in front of Flood who had continued his run into the box.  With Murray and Robson both running into the middle, he just had to square it, but didn’t make good contact and McCracken was able to clear.

Baird and Telfer squared up briefly in the 41st minute after the United midfielder had gone through the back of the Falkirk goalscorer.  Telfer was booked for the challenge.

Hippolyte found McHugh in the United box in 42 minutes, but he shot wildly over the bar.

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We reached half time all square in a game that could still have gone either way.

In 47 minutes, Murray latched onto a through ball from Flood, who passed to Andreu.  He showed good footwork on the edge of the box, but his shot went well over the bar.

A blow for United in 52 minutes when the hard working Flood was forced to go off.

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Falkirk started a move in their own half in 59 minutes with Hippolyte passing to Sibbald.  He played it forward to McHugh who played a clever one-two with Baird before feeding Taiwo on the right.  His cross looked for Baird in the middle, but this time van der Struijk was there to head clear.

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Just after United made their third substitution in 63 minutes, Telfer seemed to have got a knock and went down.  He limped for the rest of the half with no alternative other than taking him off and going down to ten men.  Although an important game, it was quite a risk to the player’s health to leave him on.

van der Velden found himself in some space on the right side of Falkirk’s box in 68 minutes, but he had strayed offside.

A long ball forward by van der Struijk in 73 minutes almost found Murray, but Rogers was out quickly to catch the ball in the Falkirk box.

The game was becoming a midfield battle as both sides tried to get the upper hand and former United midfielder Rankin got a good reception from both sets of fans when he came on for the booked Sibbald.

Falkirk almost caught United out in 75 minutes with a short corner.  McHugh’s cross headed by van der Velden fell to McCracken whose acrobatic volley wasn’t far away.

Some good work on the left by Obadeyi in 76 minutes saw him find Murray in the box and he played it back to Telfer, but his effort was poor, probably as a result of the injury he was carrying.

The game was becoming stretched as we reached the last 10 minutes and seemed to be getting more frantic.

Telfer went off for more treatment in 81 minutes, but was soon back on.  Not before a quick kick out by Rogers in 82 minutes saw Baird hold the ball up well and manage to get to the by-line, but his pull back was behind Rankin in the United box.

Hippolyte then lashed over Bell’s bar from the edge of the box in 83 minutes.

A Edjenguele tackle on Baird in 87 minutes went straight to Craigen on the right and his near post ball was swept into the net by Hippolyte via a deflection off Edjenguele to put the Bairns back in front.

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In the last minute, Hippolyte received the ball on the left for Falkirk and with fans telling him to take it into the corner, he crossed into the middle where Miller rose and powerfully headed into the net for Falkirk’s third.  What do fans know?

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The United fans headed for home as Falkirk comfortably saw out injury time.

An entertaining game between two good sides with quality on both teams.

Kerr did a power of work in the unglamorous role for Falkirk and Baird seems to be the patron saint of lost causes with his tireless running.  In flashes, Hippolyte looked very good and caused problems.

For United, Robson defended well and van der Velden was prominent, particularly in the first half.  Obadeyi showed some great control and trickery and looks like being a big player for them.

Full Time: Falkirk 3 Dundee United 1

Admission: £19

Falkirk: 1 Danny Rogers, 2 Lewis Kidd, 5 David McCracken, 15 Luca Gasparotto, 3 Luke Leahy, 7 Tom Taiwo (Craigen 74), 8 Mark Kerr, 10 Craig Sibbald (Rankin 74), 11 Myles Hippolyte, 9 John Baird, 19 Bob McHugh (Miller 78).  Subs: 6 John Rankin, 18 Lee Miller, 21 Scott Shepherd, 23 Tony Gallacher, 26 Lewis McMinn, 28 James Craigen, 44 Paul Watson.

Dundee United: 1 Cammy Bell, 20 Frank van der Struijk, 14 William Edjenguele, 6 Lewis Toshney (Dillon 45), 24 Jamie Robson, 23 Nick van der Velden, 12 Charlie Telfer, 16 Willow Flood (Fraser 53), 11 Tope Obadeyi, 9 Simon Murray, 19 Tony Andreu (Smith 63). Subs: 2 Sean Dillon, 4 Mark Durnan, 5 Coll Donaldson, 7 Blair Spittal, 10 Scott Fraser, 15 Cammy Smith, 21 Luis Zwick.

Referee: Crawford Allan

Programme: £2.50

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