better meddle...

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

Match Report

Saturday, 1st November, 2008

Falkirk 0-0 Dundee United

Falkirk failed to break down their opponents in a drab match

Ten-man Dundee United held on for a share of the spoils after losing Roy O'Donovan early in the second half.

Burton O'Brien went close for Falkirk at the close of the first half when his curling shot flew inches wide.

Gerard Aafjes then brilliantly cleared from almost on the goal-line, with United's Warren Feeney ready to strike.

United keeper Lukasz Zaluska saved well from Jackie McNamara before O'Donovan saw red on 57 minutes for a rash challenge on Aafjes.

In a match lacking clear-cut chances, the Bairns had the better of the openings but they were unable to capitalise on their advantage in personnel against their fellow Co-Operative Insurance Cup semi-finalists.

It was a cagey opening from both teams, with Falkirk deploying only Stevie Lovell up front rather than their typical three-pronged attack.

The Tannadice outfit were playing a high defensive line, strangling Falkirk of their usual space and thwarting their passing game and 20 minutes of a low-key contest had elapsed without either side carving out a chance.

Falkirk sprang to life midway through the half with Patrick Cregg bursting forward into the penalty area to exchange passes with Lovell before Sean Dillon made a superb covering block.

Kevin McBride then struck a 22-yard drive Zaluska found too hot to handle, but the Pole was grateful to Aafjes for knocking the rebound into his arms with the goal gaping.

Neil McCann then glanced a header wide from Cregg's cross before Morgaro Gomis drove straight at Scott Flinders at the other end.

Flinders was called into action again on the half-hour mark, the former England Under-20 international saving at his near post from O'Donovan after the Irishman got the break of the ball.

Four minutes from the break, O'Brien had the home fans on their feet as his curling shot looked destined to arc into the top right-hand corner only to flashed just past.

Aafjes then brilliantly cleared under pressure from Feeney.

Early in the second half Arfield saw a left-footed effort pushed away by Zaluska after a misplaced Cregg pass broke into his path.

The United number one made an even better save soon after as he stopped McNamara's searing shot.

Falkirk were in the ascendancy and their cause was helped on 57 minutes when the visitors were reduced to 10 men.

O'Donovan slid in to make a hard challenge on Aafjes at the corner flag and referee Iain Brines had no hesitation in brandishing the red card.

John Hughes' charges struggled for openings despite their man advantage and the best chance of finding a winner fell to the visitors.

Craig Conway brilliantly created space near the byline and cut inside only to blast into the side-netting from a tight angle.

Falkirk manager John Hughes: "We were hoping to go on and win the game but it wasn't to be. I thought when it was eleven versus eleven it was very open."

"We had one or two chances to score, big Gerard Aafjes probably had the best of them. He maybe hit it too well; he should have got more height on it."

"When they got the man sent off it changed the whole complexion of the game. They sat in and tried to hit us on the counter and we gave it everything we had."

"I would like to have seen more attempts on goal during that period but we thought the best way to get in was by getting wide and get crosses in and we did that, but every time we put them in big Lee Wilkie and Darren Dods kept heading them away."

"I have a lot of respect for the Dundee United team; they keep clean sheets, they play good football, they've got a lot of physical presence in their team and they're very difficult to play against, but we gave it a go."

Dundee United manager Craig Levein: "I'm pleased that we managed to hang on and get a point but disappointed that we had a player sent off. The way the game is going these days, it's becoming so sanitised and eventually there will be no tackling whatsoever."

"I think he (Roy O'Donovan) was trying to play the ball off the defender which I think is fair enough. We get a throw-in if he does that in the last third of the pitch."

"He tackled the ball and it was aggressive, fair enough."

"I, more than anyone, suffered injuries in my career and I know how difficult is is to be on the sidelines and I hate to see challenges that endanger opponents. No way is that going to endanger anyone - he tackled the ball. Not above the ball or the side of the ball, the ball."

"It's just the way the game is going and it just disappoints me as a former defender."