better meddle...

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

Match Report

Monday, 2nd November, 2009

by Ewing Grahame

Falkirk 0 Dundee Utd 0: Winning streak comes to an end but 10-man United pass test of character to earn point

GOALLESS but hardly soulless in spite of an unpromising start, United were more pleased than their hosts with the point they took here after playing for the final 35 minutes with ten men following the controversial dismissal of forward Roy O'Donovan for violent conduct.

They may have been prevented from racking up seven successive wins for the first time since Jim McLean was in his pomp, but they can at least be satisfied that they showed some character in the face of adversity.

Playing for more than a third of the match with an extra man takes a little of the shine off the fact that this was Falkirk's first clean sheet in the SPL in 15 attempts, since they drew 0-0 with the unlamented Gretna back in April.

The opening 15 minutes were fascinating only in as much as it allowed one to speculate on why two sets of players with league points and bonuses to play for should appear so utterly unmotivated.

Fortunately for all concerned, the tempo rose as the match progressed and by midway through the first half it had become interesting. Warren Feeney had the first shot of the match in the 20th minute but blazed his effort high and wide. It then required an impressive saving tackle by Sean Dillon to prevent Patrick Cregg pulling the trigger at the end of one of those rapid-fire, one-touch passing moves the home side are renowned for.

Gerard Aafjes really ought to have lit the blue touchpaper in the 24th minute but when Luzasz Zaluska spilled a Kevin McBride drive at the Dutch defender's feet, he meekly prodded the rebound back into the goalkeeper's arms.

John Hughes' teams are hardly synonymous with the 4-5-1 formation but, even with Steve Lovell deployed as the lone striker, they still created chances and Burton O'Brien came close with a hook shot from the edge of the penalty area which had Zaluska beaten but shaved the outside of the post.

Back at the other end (it was like that by now), Aafjes redeemed himself with a perfectly-timed last-gasp intervention just as Feeney was about to convert Morgaro Gomis' knockdown six yards out.

Zaluska looked suspect again in the 51st minute, going down to parry a weak left-foot shot from Scott Arfield. He was grateful that Dillon was again on hand to reach the rebound ahead of Neil McCann.

The Pole provided a quick reminder of his strengths just 60 seconds later, though, when he threw himself to his right to beat away a full-blooded volley from Jackie McNamara after Lovell had flicked on a Cregg cross. It was enjoyable stuff, then, but hardly of the blood-and-guts variety, which made O'Donovan's dismissal in the 55th minute all the more surprising. The striker went in hard on Aafjes, who refused to speak afterwards, and seemed to win the ball, but referee Iain Brines had no hesitation in producing the red card.

"He won the ball and it wasn't dangerous in any way," said United manager Craig Levein. "If we can appeal against this then we will, so I hope we'll have him against Rangers on Tuesday."

Conway might have won it for United on the break but he shot into the side netting from an acute angle.

"The sending-off spoiled the game," said Hughes. "It was interesting before that, but that decision changed the complexion of the game."

MAN OF THE MATCH: Falkirk's veteran striker Neil McCann showed enough flashes of quality to suggest he may be on the verge of an Indian summer. After his move to Falkirk in the summer, the former Dundee, Hearts, Rangers and Southampton striker, who turns 34 this week, is enjoying a return to the form he enjoyed before injury blighted his second spell at Tynecastle and saw him sidelined for much of the last two seasons.

QUICK FACT: United have failed to win at the Westfield Stadium since October, 2005.

TALKING POINT: The needless lunge by O'Donovan which earned the striker a red card was completely out of keeping with the match.