better meddle...

wi' the de'il than the bairns o' fa'kirk

Match Report

Thursday, 23rd October, 2008

by Julian Peck

Aberdeen hold firm against Falkirk in bottom spot battle

THE thin line between victory and defeat was never more apparent.

Two sides battling to avoid bottom place in the SPL table but only one really looking like emerging as the winner.

Yet, outgunned and often outplayed, it was Aberdeen that still held firm in the face of adversity to grab a solitary goal and grind out three barely deserved but valuable points.

"We'll play a lot worse than that and win matches," said Falkirk manager John Hughes afterwards.

Dons boss Jimmy Calderwood's post-game assessment followed a similar line. "We'll perform better and lose," he claimed.

Those words from both camps pretty much summed up the whole encounter.

Lee Miller's powerful header from Andrew Considine's dangerous cross in the 48th minute left Scott Flinders helpless, and the home side with nothing to show for their endeavours come 4.45 p.m.

And, rather than finally putting a 21-game hoodoo to bed, Falkirk still have to get one over the club from the Granite City since November 1994.

A positive result could have elevated Hughes' side three or even four spots up the league standings. Instead it demoted them to 12th.

Yet, despite dismal referee Willie Collum's painfully fussy, whistle-happy and inconsistent performance, which included a total of five yellow cards and a very questionable straight red for Lee Bullen, Falkirk mainly have themselves to blame for not turning their superiority into goals.

The Bairns boss, however, still remains optimistic about the season ahead.

"Collum is one of the better referees, he just didn't have a good game," he said.

"But the bottom line is that we need to defend better in situations that are defendable.

"The roller coast ride continues, the ups and downs, the highs and lows.

"Hopefully there's more highs but I'm not nervous, I have great confidence in the boys and I can't criticise them.

"Where we've come from is outstanding. I remember the days of playing Aberdeen at Brockville when we had 11 men behind the ball but we took the game to them today.

"It was a good performance in the first and second half and on another day we would have won – it just wasn't to be, you could use the word 'mugged' again but we'll take a lot from it.

"Yes, we're bottom of the league. However, we've been punching above our weight for a number of years and this may be the season when we just have to roll our sleeves up and dig in.

"That doesn't concern me because I know that the players I have in the dressing room can do that.

"We got nine points in the first quarter last year and can still go and beat that total with two games to go."

Kilmarnock away and Dundee United at Westfield follow, either side of a quarter-final Co-op Cup tie against Inverness Caley, also at home. They are three games that could shape the season and victories may have to be achieved by any means necessary.

Aberdeen demonstrated a way of doing just that with a stuffy performance hardly worthy of a win but one that ultimately did.

The visitors, on the back of five consecutive defeats, were anything but special as their opponents ran the show for the majority of proceedings.

Yet, after ex-Bairn Miller scored on the counter-attack, the Dons dug in and stifled any hope of an equaliser.

Flinders was given the nod ahead of Robert Olejnik but the keeper, on-loan from Crystal Palace, had a very quiet afternoon.

The main action was at the other end and Steve Lovell had three great opportunities throughout the 90 minutes to score against his former club.

Two went wide and another, which ended up in the net, was very harshly chalked off by Collum after he claimed a foul had been committed on Scott Severin.

The desperate Dons' chances were limited to long-range efforts yet the introduction of the lively Sone Aluko after the break eventually led to Miller's killer strike.

Michael Higdon, Burton O'Brien, Scott Arfield and Darren Barr all went close to equalising but Falkirk's efforts eventually came to nothing and their misery was only compounded during time added on.

Bullen's strong 50/50 shoulder challenge on Severin, as he raced in on goal, certainly didn't appear malicious or unfair.

But Collum somehow thought differently and duly confirmed he was the most unpopular person at Westfield by dishing out some rough justice and the Bairns defender his marching orders.

"Lee (Bullen) told me to get to the gym more afterwards!" said Severin. "I felt sorry for him."

Falkirk, meanwhile, just had to use their muscle to better effect at the other end.