Falkirk 0 Saints 0 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Mackay, Danny, Morris, Doobs, Ando, Millar,
Davidson, Deuchar, Sammy, Sheridan
Subs: Duffy, Swankie, Sheerinho, Falky, Rustybitz, Jacko, Savo
Fresh from the weekend's comeback against Killie, tonight was the last away game of the season and a chance to pile on the misery on Elvis' Falkirk side - although no doubt the guarantee from their manager that they'd stay up would still ensure their SPL future for next season. While most of the pressure was on the Bairns to get a result, Saints still needed to notch up the wins to guarantee seventh spot - especially with Accies coming to Perth for the final game. There was still plenty of pride and contracts to play for as well and after seeing us come back from a losing position in the last four games, Del was obviously keen to get us back to winning ways before the end of the season.
Rugby Park had been a typical end of season game to start with and while there was plenty of action on the pitch and Saints came onto a much improved performance after the break, you were still left with the feeling that the players were already looking forward to their trips to Magaluf. But tonight was going to be a tougher match as the relegation battle moved into the final stages and there was no doubt pre -match that a similar lacklustre performance would cost us dear - even one league position was worth 70-80 grand and given the form of Accies who were on our coat tails we couldn't afford to let up for an instant.
The Bairns had slipped up at the weekend settling for a point against a ten-man mob of Renfrewshire junkies. Their failure to take advantage of our win over Killie meant that Elvis was starting to sound about as convincing as Sweary McGhee in the post-match press conferences. They'd failed to beat us in three previous encounters this season with the Doc's cheeky lob at the Falkirk stadium a few weeks ago summing up their lack of conviction or belief. Changing managers had done little to stop the rot and with a much poorer goal difference than Tango Boy's mob, they needed the wins to keep their hopes alive of enjoying the SPL for another season.
Tonight's game wasn't the most exciting of games with the Bairns possibly having the better of the chances but with most of those only coming thanks to the influence of Craig Thomson's inept refereeing and with Saints denied a good penalty claim, a draw was possibly a good result. In terms of Saints performance we fought well even if the football wasn't pretty. Plenty of mistakes in the Saints side but we came back well and there were some bonuses for Saints in the play of Falkingham coming off the bench and the Saints defence looking solid in front of a goalkeeper that made some great saves. It means we don't get a 100% record against the Bairns but we're still in 7th going into the final game.
The end of season injury list continued to grow. Fil missed out on Saturday with a swollen knee and he was rated highly doubtful for tonight, while more than a few players were nursing knocks after the physical nature of the game on Saturday. Del's starting eleven saw two changes with Rustybitz on the bench and Liam out of the squad. In came Ando at the back with Sheridan getting a start up front. The bench saw some changes as well with Savo back in the side and Falkingham making an appearance. For the Bairns, they were pretty much at full strength. Falkirk had cut admission prices to a tenner again and credit to them for doing so. It meant a decent crowd for kick-off waiting for the entertainment to start. And they're possibly still waiting.
The opening exchanges were dominated by the Bairns obviously keen to implement their manager's guarantee that they won't go down. Thomson was helping them as much as possible with Murray Davidson the main target for him to pick on. A first minute freekick from a foul against Muzz was headed well wide. Davidson was guilty of a poor back pass next but Ando was there to clear the danger. But a long ball for Sammy in the 4th minute saw him go on a good run. He found Millar who went on a run but had to settle for a throw-in and from Danny's effort the ball was headed out to Morris who fired in a good snapshot that went just wide of goal. Falkirk's next effort saw them target 70s rock star Showaddywaddy but Doobs had more than enough to match him. More pressure from the home side ended in a throw-in that found Mutanto but his effort went well over. Another freekick against Davidson in the 9th minute was cleared by Ando. He found the Doc who flicked the ball on for Sheridan but the loan striker lost the ball.
A Grainger throw-in a couple of minutes after that found the Doc who was clobbered by a Bairn defender but again the referee waived play on much to the annoyance of the Doc. Falkirk got their next chance thanks to a McLean dive against Sammy but the freekick ended in a header going well wide. We got a rare freekick in the 14th minute when Sheridan was bundled over but Danny's freekick was held by Olejnik. Some more good play from Saints ended with another foul against us. That was turned into a quick one-two freekick that saw a low shot from distance easily held by Smithy. Saints were showing flashes of skill but the three-man midfield was being crowded out too easily and the service for the front men was lacking.
Millar had a good run and cut inside in the 19th minute with a chip for the Doc who sent the ball back across the goal only for it to be cleared from the feet of Sammy. Another Millar run saw him link with Grainger and the Doc but again all we could win from it was another bloody shy. Having said that we were comfortable at the back and only a long ball from the wing woke Smithy to catch the ball. Showaddywaddy had another break and run but Doobs did his Mr Cool act to shield the ball for a goal kick.
With 27 minutes gone there was more controversy after the Doc was bundled over again. He complained to the referee and ended up being booked for dissent. Two minutes later and Davidson limped off injured forcing Del into his first change with Josh Falkingham coming on to join Millar and Morris in a midfield that looked more suited to starring alongside Snow White than playing in the SPL.
Sheridan had a run and cross on the half-hour mark but he failed to find Sammy. Jody was the second name in the book for a tackle from behind in the 33rd minute. The resulting freekick was turned into a Bairns corner but that was headed wide of goal. Up the other end a Doobs freekick found the Doc who headed the ball down for Sheridan and he managed a good turn and shot that was deflected out for a corner. Danny's inswinger went across the goal and wide. Six minutes before the break and Falkirk won another corner that was played out to the edge of the box and the low shot was well blocked by the legs of Smithy.
That was about it in terms of match action. A Saints freekick for the Doc was held by the keeper. Ando picked up a booking for a foul on Showaddywaddy a minute before the break. And at the death a Saints freekick into the box found the Doc whose header on for Sheridan was almost finished although the referee rounded off his half of ineptitude by blowing for a non- existent foul on the keeper.
Saints made another change at the break with Sheerinho coming on for Sheridan as the average height of the Saints midfield went up by a couple of feet. The four-man midfield managed to spoil Falkirk's play a bit more and we began to control the game a bit more in the middle of the park. But we still weren't capitalising enough on the ball and the strikers were living off scraps. Still we managed a decent chance in the 50th minute after Morris was up-ended. Grainger's freekick into the box found the Doc but his header went just over the bar with the keeper beaten.
Sammy had a decent run but had to settle for a corner that came to nothing and then a good flowing move from Sammy and Millar spread the ball to an unmarked Sheerinho on the left but he pulled his shot across goal and well wide. As an attacking force, Falkirk's movement was limited - one run in the 58th minute was ended by a brilliant Falkingham block and the new boy showed some maturity to his play as he dribbled his way out of danger.
We lacked the linkup play that's seen us win games though and as such chances were few and far between. The ref wasn't helping though and Showaddywaddy's umpteenth foul of the game as he hauled Ando to the deck saw him escape punishment again. Sheerinho had another decent shot across the goal blocked before we lost possession in the middle of the park in the 68th minute and the Bairns broke forward through Showaddywaddy. His effort was blocked but the rebound came to Flynn coming in from the other flank but thankfully he ballsed up his finish with his header going across the goal and wide.
A minute later and there was more controversy at the other end. Sheerinho and Millar linked up to release Danny on the left wing. He sent a deep cross over that Olejnik struggled to reach. The ball went long and found the Falcon cutting in from the right and as he rounded the keeper he was brought down. Thomson took a few seconds but ended up signalling a goal kick which Josh didn't take too kindly to. It at least livened the game up a bit and the challenges got a bit heavier - Showaddywaddy flattening Smithy when he went up for an Arfield cross. We won another freekick on the edge of the box after the Doc's header on for Millar ended up with Chrissy being brought down. Danny's freekick was blocked and Sheerinho's cutback cleared before the ball fell for Mackay on the right but his effort was blocked.
Savo replaced Sammy in the 73rd minute. Falkirk tried to up the tempo as the game went into the last fifteen minutes - Flynn had a decent run but his touch was poor and Smithy came out to gather. Arfield tried a run down the other side but Ando was there to block the danger. We looked nervy at times but to be honest the Bairns were running out of ideas. In the 78th minute another ball across the goal was missed completely by Showaddywaddy and Millar easily cleared the danger. The Falkirk striker finally picked up a warning just after that for another foul on Millar as Thomson looked to minimise the number of Falkirk bookings (see Pressley, not everyone hates you). Healy had a turn and shot easily held by Smithy while at the other end a Grainger cross in the 85th minute was headed wide by the Doc.
Two minutes before the end of normal time and Falkirk had arguably their best chance. More pressure in the Saints box (and a nice Bairns handball allowed by the referee) ended up with the ball breaking out and an angled shot in from the left was tipped across goal by Smithy. That led to a series of corners with Doobs and Savo putting in the blocks before Smithy eventually claimed the ball. There was one more chance for the home side with a long shy in injury time turned into a shot that Grainger got his body behind to block before Mackay cleared.
No goals then and not much in the way of entertainment from Saints as we again faced a tough side fighting for their survival. Several players were below par tonight with Mackay, Sheerin and Samuel off the pace. Sheridan struggled to get into the game as well. But on the plus side Grainger, Smithy (my MoM) and the centre-halves all did well as did Millar in midfield. Falkingham too deserves some credit - there doesn't look to be much of him but he showed some nice touches tonight and would possibly be worth a longer deal. As for the Bairns - at least they didn't cheat as much as Killie but when the manager is telling the ball boys to take their time giving us back the ball you have to wonder if all that hate and conspiracy theories that Pressley constantly mentions are justified.
Anyway one more game to secure seventh.
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