Friday 19 May, 19.45, Falkirk Stadium
Falkirk against Dundee United in the Premiership play-off semi-final second leg.
The teams that finished second and third in the Scottish Championship face off with the winners then up against the team finishing second bottom in the Premiership to determine who will be in that league the following season. Dundee United had already beaten Morton, who finished fourth in the Championship, 5-1 on aggregate to reach the semi-final.
The first leg of this semi had finished two goals apiece at Tannadice, the home of United. United led twice, but both times Falkirk hauled them back. With away goals not counting double in the play-offs, it was winner takes all.
Falkirk were still without captain David McCracken. United were missing midfielder Stewart Murdoch, who had a leg injury he picked up in the first leg. Defender Frank van der Struijk was also unavailable.
It was the fourth time we’d seen Falkirk in the season and the fifth time United. This included the two facing each other at the Falkirk Stadium in September when the home side won 3-1.
There were 7,926 in attendance.
With 3 minutes gone, Kerr played the ball to the left for Leahy who volleyed into the United box, but Durnan turned the ball behind for the game’s first corner. Mikkelsen headed Craigen’s delivery away.
United broke forward following the corner and Murray played the ball forward for Mikkelsen who headed down for Andreu. He brought the ball down well, but his half volley was off target.
Kerr picked up a loose ball for Falkirk in 11 minutes and played the ball to Muirhead. He played a pass into the feet of Baird just inside the United box and he flicked the ball into the path of Craigen who hit a low shot from the edge of the box in off the post to give Falkirk the lead.
Flood looked to pull up with a hamstring injury with 17 minutes gone as United came forward and won a corner. Moments later, he crossed the ball into the Falkirk box and it was headed down by Mikkelsen for Andreu, but from the edge of the box, he lashed it over the bar.
Flood had signalled to the bench that he would need to come off, but quickly intimated he would try to carry on.
Mikkelsen won United a free kick on the right in 20 minutes. Spittal curled it into the box, but Thomson punched clear.
Dixon crossed from the left in 24 minutes for Mikkelsen, but he headed over the Falkirk bar.
United came forward in 31 minutes and Murray laid the ball off to Andreu on the right. He cut the ball back to Murray in the box, but he slipped as he went to strike it and the ball trundled into the arms of Thomson.
In 35 minutes, Sibbald robbed Andreu and shot at the United goal from 25 yards, but dragged it wide.
A long ball forward from Gasparotto in 36 minutes saw Austin chasing after it. Durnan got there in front of him, but his attempt to knock it back to Bell saw him steer it wide of him for a Falkirk corner. Sibbald’s flag kick was cleared.
Mikkelsen ran on to a high ball from United in 41 minutes. He looked offside but was allowed to carry on. Muirhead got back to face him up and the striker curled for goal, but put it wide.
At half time, Falkirk still led. A game played at 100 miles an hour with Falkirk in the ascendency with possession often changing hands.
United had the first opportunity of the second half with Dixon’s cross met by the head of Mikkelsen, but it was well off target.
Leahy got away from Spittal on the left in 49 minutes, but his cross was just too far in front of Baird deep in the United area.
A United corner in 50 minutes saw Durnan head Spittal’s cross back into the danger area and Mikkelsen headed down for Edjenguele who rattled the ball off the underside of the bar and over the line, but Mikkelsen was judged to have pushed Watson over and a foul was given to Falkirk. Looked a bit harsh on United.
Murray got the break of the ball on the left for United in 56 minutes and made his way to the by-line. His cut back to Andreu saw Gasparotto get the slightest touch on it to put Andreu off and he could only hit the side netting.
In the next minute, Murray weaved his way into the Falkirk box and went past two before Leahy slid in to make a great tackle. United quickly worked the ball out to Dillon on the right and his cross saw Murray’s header well saved by Thomson.
United were putting the pressure on, but in 62 minutes, Leahy got down the left for Falkirk and crossed low into the box. Craigen got on the end of it and hit a first time shot just wide of the post with Bell a spectator.
A clever pass by Craigen in 66 minutes saw Leahy get to the by-line and hammer the ball across the face of the United goal, but it was just out of reach of McHugh and Austin.
A poor pass by Flood in 68 minutes was intercepted by Sibbald and he quickly fed Austin who ran at the heart of the United defence. Durnan and Edjenguele were both drawn to him and McHugh was free to Austin’s left, but he overhit the pass and Bell was able to collect.
Back up the other end and Mikkelsen chased the ball into the corner on the left. He cut the ball back to Murray on the corner of the box, and he hit a low drive at goal, but Thomson got down to smother.
Durnan was yellow carded in 72 minutes for bringing down Austin as Falkirk attacked.
With 76 minutes gone, United’s Fraser chipped a ball forward into the Falkirk half and Spittal won a header to knock it forward. Muirhead was a bit slow to react and Murray got a toe in to nip in front of him and knock it past Bell for the equaliser.
United sub Fraser, who had only been on the pitch for 9 minutes, had to come off in the aftermath of the goal.
In 78 minutes, McHugh curled a ball into the United box which was just out of Austin’s reach.
Leahy was booked for Falkirk in 81 minutes. Spittal followed him seconds later for a cynical foul, taking out Hippolyte as Falkirk threatened.
Murray put a cross right across the Falkirk goal in 85 minutes, but there were no takers.
Good chasing by Murray won United a throw in deep in the Falkirk half in 87 minutes. The throw was given to Nicholls who crossed to the back post and Dixon rose to head off the back of Taiwo and the ball spun up and over Thomson and into the back of the net. Bedlam in the United end. Taiwo complained that Dixon had pushed him and he may have had a case.
There was a skirmish in the United box in 89 minutes as Falkirk’s Muirhead and United’s Dixon clashed.
Murray and Muirhead were booked in the first minute of injury time for a scuffle in the corner.
Falkirk couldn’t fashion another chance and United would go onto play Hamilton Accies to determine which league both would play in the following season.
Heartbreak for Falkirk who looked convincing in the first half, but sat back on their lead too much in the second half. United never gave up and fought back well. They brought on their more skilful players to get back into the game which looked a gamble at the time.
Kerr was outstanding in the Falkirk midfield, particularly in the first half and Leahy had a good game on the left. For United, Murray’s workrate was excellent and Spittal played well in midfield.
Full Time: Falkirk 1 Dundee United 2
Falkirk: 24 Robbie Thomson, 4 Aaron Muirhead, 44 Paul Watson, 15 Luca Gasparotto, 3 Luke Leahy, 28 James Craigen (Hippolyte 79), 6 Joe McKee (Taiwo 54), 8 Mark Kerr, 10 Craig Sibbald, 9 John Baird (McHugh 61), 16 Nathan Austin. Subs: 1 Danny Rogers, 2 Lewis Kidd, 7 Tom Taiwo, 11 Myles Hippolyte, 18 Lee Miller, 19 Bob McHugh, 33 Fraser Aird.
Dundee United: 1 Cammy Bell, 2 Sean Dillon, 4 Mark Durnan, 14 William Edjenguele, 3 Paul Dixon, 19 Tony Andreu, 17 Wato Kuate, 16 Willo Flood (Telfer 70), 7 Blair Spittal, 9 Simon Murray, 18 Thomas Mikkelsen (Fraser 70 (Nicholls 79)). Subs: 5 Coll Donaldson, 10 Scott Fraser, 11 Alex Nicholls, 12 Charlie Telfer, 21 Luis Zwick, 24 Jamie Robson, 35 Scott Allardice.
Referee: Kevin Clancy