better meddle...

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

Match Report

Monday, 14th December, 2009

by Martin Hannan

Aberdeen 2 - 1 Falkirk: Freezing north no place for Bairns

A WINTRY Pittodrie is no place for the faint-hearted, and though Falkirk showed plenty of courage yesterday at a place they dislike visiting, they were outplayed in the first half in particular. Two goals by Lee Miller gave Aberdeen victory and cemented their place in the top six, though Kilmarnock can demote them if they beat Motherwell.

Former Dons player Jackie McNamara was suspended for Falkirk but Aberdeen were missing star-of-the-season Sono Aluko, out with a hamstring injury.

Andrew Considine was fit again, but took his place on the bench where there was no room as yet for the recovering Jamie Smith.

Aberdeen did all the early attacking, and were unlucky not to take the lead after five minutes. Lee Mair clipped in a cross that might have been a shot, but Robert Olejnik leapt high to his right to palm the ball behind.

Olejnik looked to be at fault five minutes later when he came for a Charlie Mulgrew corner and failed to collect. Zander Diamond reacted quickest as the ball bobbled about, his header landing on top of the Falkirk goal.

What proved to be Falkirk's best chance of the first half, and indeed their only shot on target, came after 11 minutes when Burton O'Brien found Dean Holden in space on the right side of the Aberdeen area. The English defender hit his shot well, but Jamie Langfield tipped the ball on to the crossbar.

Aberdeen were in command, however, and it was no surprise when the Dons went ahead after 15 minutes. Gary McDonald was upended in the area by Gerard Aafjes, who was booked, and Miller made no mistake from the spot with a fierce low shot.

A minute late came arguably the most bizarre incident of the SPL season so far. Olejnik ran far from goal to clear the danger and smashed the ball high into the main stand where it careered like a heat-seeking missile into the light panel behind the media seats, sending glass and plastic shards flying. Was it something we wrote, Robert?

With the weather conditions worsening, the players seemed to be running around to keep warm rather than direct their efforts meaningfully.

Falkirk's normal passing game went to pot in what goalscorer Miller called "horrible conditions". The weather was not to blame when McDonald took a lunging swipe at Michael Higdon and was booked by referee Crawford Allan.

It was Allan who was at the centre of attention shortly afterwards when Graham Barrett went down from a challenge by Langfield. Barrett rose very quickly, and to be fair, by the time he faced the press, John Hughes had no complaints about it though he did question whether a later tug on Steve Lovell's jersey was more of a penalty shout.

Aberdeen's second goal after 42 minutes was a beauty. Though he tired in the heavy ground and was later substituted, the impressive Chris Maguire troubled the defence throughout his hour in play. His neat footwork gave him time to fire in a cross from the left wing which looked to be just too strong for Miller at the back post. The former Falkirk man stretched out a long right leg, however, and hooked the ball back past the despairing Olejnik.

Inspired by a Hughes rollicking, Falkirk made a much better start to the second half. "We dominated the first half but they came right back into it," as Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood said later.

Scott Arfield fired in a couple of efforts from the edge of the box, the first held easily by Langfield and the second going high. A touch of comedy due to the wet conditions came after 58 minutes when Langfield slipped as he went for a pass back and played an "air shot" to concede a corner which Darren Barr headed over. Steve Lovell's shot then looked on target but was deflected wide by Diamond.

Calderwood decided to freshen things up as Falkirk kept a grip on the midfield, Maguire and Jeffrey de Visscher being replaced by Derek Young and Richard Foster respectively.

The home side for long periods seemed quite content to rely on their two-goal advantage, but should have gone further ahead after 71 minutes when a sweeping move down their left flank ended with Miller putting McDonald clear in front of goal some 16 yards out. The player thumped the ground in frustration as his shot soared high.

A match which had started quite brightly was now a poor affair, with both defences on top. All credit to the players, however, for simply keeping going in conditions which demanded thermals and Goretex waterproofs at least.

Inside the last two minutes, Olejnik raced 30 yards from goal and felled Darren Mackie, but referee Allan ruled he had got the ball first.

Falkirk broke upfield and after Lovell went down in the box holding his shoulder, Holden fired in a cross which jack-in-a-box Lovell got up to divert past Langfield from 12 yards out.

It was only a consolation goal, however, as Aberdeen held on.

Hughes was magnanimous in defeat: "We gave ourselves too much to do in the first half, and over the piece they deserved it. But I couldn't have asked for any more from my players."

How true. On a day like yesterday, just playing to the final whistle was an achievement in itself.

MAN OF THE MATCH: He scored one from the penalty spot, but took his second quite beautifully and led the Aberdeen line well, so Lee Miller gets the award.

QUICK FACT: Falkirk have now gone almost 51 years since they last beat Aberdeen on league duty at Pittodrie. They finished 10th in that '57-58 season behind champions Hearts.

TALKING POINT: SFA President George Peat's summit will discuss summer football. The 8,909 brave spectators yesterday at an Arctic, windswept, rain-battered Pittodrie will surely say the case for football hibernation and not aestivation is irresistible.