better meddle...

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

Match Report

Thursday, 18th December, 2008

by Julian Peck

The times they are not a-changing

1958 – the last time that Falkirk beat Aberdeen at Pittodrie Stadium.

Private Elvis Presley was also inducted into the US Army, Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' was a box office smash and Perry Como topped the music charts.

Roll on half a century and the Bairns still couldn't find enough 'Magic Moments' that the aforementioned crooner once sang about to end an incredible hoodoo.

Instead, two first half goals from Lee Miller settled the latest encounter – the 38th meeting between the two sides up north since Falkirk previously claimed victory.

Ex-Don Steve Lovell's late strike proved to be only a consolation and his team was bussed back down the A90 after failing to claim three points at a venue where so many players before have not done so either.

"All the other managers before me must be balloons, not coming here and getting a win – Jim Jefferies and all them!" John Hughes joked.

But that was the only laughing matter for the Bairns boss. He knew his side simply didn't do enough to stop a rampant Aberdeen side from virtually killing the game off with 45 minutes still to play.

"The effort was always there, from the start to finish, and I have to applaud them for that," Hughes went on.

"But, over the piece, Aberdeen possibly deserved the win – they were miles ahead of us in the first half.

"We conceded a penalty, defended too deep for the second goal and gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

"In the second half we had nothing to lose and got our goal too late on to set up a rousing finish.

"I don't think we've got what we have deserved over the season but we need to just keep digging in there. I'm looking for players to show their character and stand up to the challenge."

Aberdeen folk are maybe more used to these conditions but if there was ever an argument for so-called 'summer' football then the SFA need only look at this match.

Hats, scarves, thermals and waterproof jackets were necessities for the supporters as the rain lashed down and a swirling, ice-cold gale blew in from the North Sea.

Even the services of Hawkman, a pest controller, were hampered because his Peregrine Falcon couldn't fly in such high winds to keep the pesky seagulls at bay.

On the park, already shredded from the pre-match warm-ups, both squads were soaked to the skin before referee Crawford Allan had even got proceedings underway.

"Perhaps it affected my players psychologically," said Hughes. "They didn't pass like they want to.

"However, you still have to get on the ball and make that happen."

It didn't appear so in the first half as the Dons attacked from the outset and were relentless in their search of goals right up to the break.

Lee Mair almost caught out Robert Olejnik with a deflected cross early on, Lee Bullen then blocked Gary McDonald's shot and Zander Diamond somehow headed the resulting corner over.

For Falkirk's part, despite an attacking 4-4-3 formation, the only chance of note they created was a curling 25-yard effort from defender Dean Holden which Jamie Langfield did very well to touch onto the crossbar.

Yet McDonald's foray into the area with 14 minutes on the clock was halted illegally by Gerard Aafjes, in for the suspended Jackie McNamara, and Miller wrong-footed Olejnik – slamming the penalty into the bottom right corner.

Graeme Barrett had a decent claim for a spot kick himself when Langfield brought him down. Another challenge in the box, after the break, saw Scott Severin haul Lovell to the deck as well. Yet, again, the referee waved play on.

"I thought Langfield got a hand on the ball when Barrett was through," said Hughes.

"There was then a wee shove on Lovell, which could have been a penalty claim, but not getting those decisions isn't the reason we lost."

Aberdeen doubled their advantage with three minutes of the half remaining when a long cross from Chris Maguire on the left evaded Darren Barr and found Miller at the back post. And, with an outstretched leg, he lifted the ball over the diving Olejnik and into the net.

The Scotland striker could have had his hat-trick moments later but the Falkirk keeper superbly tipped a powerful shot over.

While the Bairns were markedly better after the break, they hardly tested Langfield.

Scott Arfield's long-range effort was easily held, Barr's header from Burton O'Brien's corner was off target and Lovell's piledriver, after sterling work to keep the ball in play, was deflected wide by Severin.

Aberdeen, meanwhile, seemed quite content to conserve their lead – something they did with aplomb.

Indeed, the goal they did concede, as the clock ticked down, was their first at Pittodrie after 370 previous minutes of play.

Holden's cross eventually fell to Lovell, who had just got up from nursing an injury, and he slammed the ball first-time past Langfield from 12 yards and into the right side of the net.