better meddle...

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

Match Report

Sunday, 19th October, 2008

by Dave Hammond

Hosts take tough tumble

FALKIRK HAVE yet to beat Aberdeen in the SPL. It is highly unlikely that they will have had such an opportunity to do so as that presented to them yesterday.

Aberdeen arrived at Falkirk on the back of a five game run of defeats and played like a team rooted to the bottom of the table. Had it not been for the solitary strike of Lee Miller, who scored against the run of play after 48 minutes, that position would have remained theirs. As it is, they handed the hot seat over to their hosts.

Falkirk's problems were compounded when Lee Bullen was red-carded in the final minute of normal time for hauling down Scott Severin as the Aberdeen sweeper found himself in the unaccustomed position of bearing down on goal. It was a harsh decision, not the first of the afternoon that had gone against the host side.

The first indication that this was not to be Falkirk's day came as early as the seventh minute when a beautifully flighted ball from Neil McCann was met by Stevie Lovell whose downward header at the far post crept across the face of the goal and out of play at the other side of Jamie Langfield's goal.

Lovell would no doubt have blamed himself for that miss, but it is the referee that must shoulder the blame for his name not going on the score sheet just 10 minutes later. The former Aberdeen striker calmly slotted the ball into the net from 14 yards out, but was adjudged to have fouled Severin before doing so. It was the first of referee Willie Collum's controversial decisions. By the end of the afternoon Collum had booked five Falkirk players as well as sending off Bullen.

The home crowd made their feelings towards Collum known, but outside the dressing room the condemnation was muted.

"We have been told not to talk about the referee," said Dean Holden, back for his first game since breaking his leg nine months ago against Celtic. Yet Holden could not stop himself from opining that the sending off of Bullen was wrong and that, in fact, Severin had not been fouled. Holden was one of the five players that found himself in Collum's book, his name being taken for protesting too much at Bullen's red card.

It took nearly half an hour for Aberdeen to make their first threat on Falkirk's goal, breaking out for Miller to screw a shot wide from the edge of the area. Prior to that, and indeed mostly after that, the ball remained in the possession of the home side, who it must be said were at times as profligate as their visitors.

Michael Higdon was certainly a threat to Aberdeen, with the ball mostly channelled to him from the Falkirk midfield, but the big Englishman, playing with his back to goal, rarely had the support he required to make use of his possession.

Miller may have fluffed his lines just before the break and according to both the player and Jimmy Calderwood, his manager, his form is not particularly good, but his classically headed goal from an Andrew Considine cross just after the break proved crucial.

"I should play better," confessed the striker. "It wasn't the prettiest of games, but we have shown the attitude to bounce back up the league. We ground that result out and we need to carry on doing that."

The goal had a quality about it that was missing from most of Aberdeen's play. The move was started by substitute Sone Aluko, whose power and pace lifted the visitors. Collecting the ball from Aluko, Considine delivered an inch perfect cross for Miller to meet. The speed and accuracy of the delivery caught Bullen out, yet it was Holden who put his hand up to allowing the goal. "I did not react," suggested the fullback. "I'm devastated that we conceded a goal and it was down to me. I have apologised to the team."

For teams engaged in the struggle at the foot of the table, confidence and/or lack thereof can make a huge difference and Hughes is unlikely to lay any blame on Holden. The Falkirk manager continues to exude confidence in his side's ability to climb the table, even if there appeared to be a lack of it following Miller's strike.

"It did not go for us today," said Hughes. "We will play worse than that and win games. We have been punching above our weight for the last few years. This could be the year we have to roll up our sleeves and dig in. That doesn't bother me because I know what we've got at this club."

Nevertheless, Falkirk's inability to capitalise on their long periods of possession could indicate a long drawn out fight against relegation.

The closest they came to cancelling out Miller's goal was in the 55th minute when a Neil McCann free-kick sent Higdon into the right-hand channel, where he turned sharply to get his shot off, the ball going just wide of the far post.