Good morning, afternoon and evening, and welcome back to my review of the Scottish Championship. I would like to apologise to my regular readers (hi mum) who will no doubt have realised that I have failed to write a review for the New Years results – I can only ask for forgiveness on account of it being a busy time of year, as well as the fact that this was my first offence of missing an entire match day! I may have missed a top of the table clash and a St Mirren player eating a Bounty on the pitch (yes, really!) but this week’s action packed fixture list was a cracker. As an avid Dundee United fan, I will begin this week’s action from the Falkirk Stadium, where 9th placed Falkirk scored SIX goals. Yes. Really. Urgh.
Falkirk 6-1 Dundee United
It was the loud away support of Dundee United who had the better start to proceedings, celebrating with vigour as their summer signing Billy King controlled a high ball over the Falkirk defence, before rounding the onrushing Robbie Thompson and slipping the ball into the empty net. Their day really peaked then, six minutes in. 21 minutes in and Falkirk equalised. Falkirk hit a shot from distance, stinging the crossbar and being guided out for a corner kick. The resulting corner was whipped in to the back of the six yard box, reaching the head of Peter Grant who bulleted it beyond the United goalkeeper Harry Lewis to breathe some life into the hosts. Falkirk were playing fast, exciting football and went ahead five minutes before the interval. Some intricate play around the box saw Lewis Kidd receive the ball on the bye-line and fire his cross low back towards goal. Former United academy player Reghan Tumilty got to the ball first, sweeping his shot into the net to in front of the frustrated away crowd. The third goal came courtesy of a Louis Longridge strike, the ex-Hamilton man breezing past new United loanee Brandon Mason before curling his shot into the goal from the edge of the penalty box. The fourth goal was comically defended by the Arabs, wild tackles aplenty and players chasing the ball with no care for their structure at all, the ball was finally hammered home by Tommy Robson, all but consigning United to defeat. Falkirk weren’t done yet though. Louis Longridge took advantage of a loose ball in midfield, carried it to the penalty box and once again curled it beyond the on-loan Southampton goalkeeper Lewis. By this stage the reaction of the United players wasn’t anger, but dejection, they were being humiliated by a weaker side and a manager in Paul Hartley who had barely won a game since he joined the team a few months ago. The pick of the bunch was number six, with Longridge and Craig Sibbald combining on the right wing, toying with the United defenders. Sibbald received the ball on the bye-line, selling his
defender with a delicious dummy before pulling the ball back for Lewis Kidd to tuck home. It was a pathetic performance from Dundee United, but for Falkirk it was a revelation, and possibly the turning point in their season. The challenge for Paul Hartley is getting his team to show that level of hunger and desire again next Saturday.
Brechin 1-1 Morton
Poor Brechin, they muster a hard earned point only for their nearest target in the league, Falkirk, to go and win 6-1.
Still, they did their part, scoring early on via an Andy Jackson strike just seven minutes in. Brechin were showing a fight and desire that had evaded them in recent weeks, with the performance of Callum Tapping particularly pleasing Brechin boss Darren Dods. Sadly, their performance couldn’t be translate into a win, as Bob McHugh equalised after only twelve minutes to keep the game tied. The game was not good for Morton, not only did they fail to win “an easy three points”, but they also lost their forward Jai Quitongo to a hamstring injury. Morton nearly won it late on, with Scott Tiffoney coming close, but Graeme Smith got down low to deny the strike, earning a good point for the soon-to-be relegated team.
St Mirren 1-0 Inverness
The result was as routine as one might think, St Mirren opened the scoring early on and they never really let slip after that. Fresh off their big win over Dundee United the week before, they managed to extend their lead at the top of the table to six points. 26 minutes in to the match Cammy Smith played a deep cross to Gavin Reilly. Reilly controlled the pass and stabbed it home from six yards out. Inverness created a heap of chances but failed to find an equaliser. This game was also the last by full back David Raven, who left the club after blasting the highlanders boardroom for their money mismanagement over the past few years. Inverness are in a precarious position in the table, seven points from the relegation playoff spot and six from the promotion playoff spot.
Livingston 0-1 Queen of the South
The battle for a playoff spot intensified at the Tony Macaroni Stadium, as Livi’s poor form continued. Queen of the South dug deep to drag the three points home to Dumfries, and leapfrogged Livingston into fourth place in the process. It was a story of woodwork in Livingston. The hosts were cruelly denied by the post in the first half, as Raffaele De Vita failed to find the winner. Stephen Dobbie struck the crossbar six minutes before half time, with the rebound falling to the feet of Chris Kane. Kane took no prisoners, riffling his shot beyond Neil Alexander to give the visitors a lead going into the break. Livingston were playing the better football, creating an abundance of chances for the cheering home fans, but nobody could grab the all important second goal. The game finished 1-0 with Queen of the South manager Gary Naysmith by far the happier of the two managers.
Dumbarton 0-1 Dunfermline
Dunfermline appear to have gotten past their mid-season woes and are back in the form of their early season, the goals may be less plentiful, but three wins in week has seen the Fifers shoot back to third in the table. Joe Cardle proved that his injury woes are just a memory, as he darted between defenders before smashing his strike past Scott Gallacher a quarter of an hour in. Gallacher may have been beaten by that strike, but he did well to keep the Dunfermline attack at bay, giving his side every opportunity to stay in the game. The result was important at both stages of the table, with Dumbarton now being only three points above the relegation playoff. Former Hearts pie-eater Christian Nade came off the bench at the break and came agonisingly close to tying the game, but it was to no avail.
The top flight is currently in the midst of a winter break, which has meant that the New Years eve games were the last lot to be played. Partick Thistle have managed to claw their way off 12th spot and have been replaced by Owen Coyle’s Staggies, Ross County.
Moving on up
Ayr United have capitulated over the past few weeks, having lost three of their last four games. This has lead to Raith
taking advantage, putting their own bad form in the rear view mirror and winning four matches on the bounce. They beat Forfar 2-1, with goals coming from Grieg Spence and a Jeff Stelling favourite, A. TRIALIST. Raith have two games to spare, are a point up, and crucially, host Ayr next weekend.
The League Roundup
After match day twenty, the league table looks like this:
|4||Queen of the South||20||8||6||6||33||27||6||30|
Few would have predicted Falkirk would beat Dundee United this weekend, so imagine the surprise to everybody when the Bairns put six goals past the Terrors, an incredible feat considering that the visitors actually took the lead early on. Falkirk actually scored a third of their season goal tally on Saturday! The rest of the league was particularly goal shy, yet wins for Queen of the South and Dunfermline helped reshape the playoffs, while Falkirk have pulled themselves to within one win from relegation playoff hardship. They have a midweek tie away to Inverness, followed by a trip to Morton next Saturday, so may find themselves climbing higher up the table by this time next week.