Scottish Championship Match Day 7: Houston, We Have A Problem

Scottish Championship

An underwhelming 2-0 loss for the Bairns at home to Livingston saw the end of Peter Houston’s stewardship of Falkirk Football Club. Long term, he was an inspired managerial candidate who only found himself failing to secure promotion due to the might of Hearts, Hibs and Newco Rangers battling his side in the Championship. But this is a short-term results business, and no wins in seven spelled the end for Peter Houston. Elsewhere in the division, Dunfermline thrashed Brechin, Inverness lost to Dumbarton, Dundee United edged past Morton and, on the Sunday game, St Mirren defeated Queen of the South. This week’s review will be a tad different, I will deliver a more extended review of the game from Tannadice, due to the fact that I actually managed to get a day off work to see my beloved Dundee United.

Dundee United 2-1 Morton

Over five and a half thousand fans descended upon Tannadice for their must-win fixture. Despite starting the day only two points off the top, the drab display of football had irked many United fans, with question marks still rife over the future of their manager, Ray McKinnon. The early stages of the match did nothing to change this belief, as United put in a turgid performance. Jim Duffy had obviously set his team out to play on the counter attack, and as such soaked up a great deal of United pressure. The story of the first half is as follows: Dundee United played in the Morton half, Dundee United were forced to take shots from distance due to a solid defensive display by Morton, Morton trouble a lackadaisical Dundee United defence through the pace of Jai Quitongo. Luckily for Dundee United, while Quitongo was blessed with a lot of pace, his accuracy is lacking, as Harry Lewis was largely untroubled in the United goal. Derek Gaston made a string of saves from Paul McMullan and Fraser Fyvie, all from distance, to keep the score 0-0. Late in the second half and James Keatings had a glorious chance with a header, but saw this tipped over the bar from Gaston.

At the halftime break the fans were treated to an, unusual, half time performance. Where so often fans are treated to some top 40 music, players in training tops pinging the football about and occasionally a “beat the goalie” competition, the 5569 crowd bore witness to The Singing Children Of Africa. It was a group of 30 children from Kenya who took to the field to sing and dance throughout halftime, trying to raise funds for their charity, an orphanage in their hometown in Kenya.

With the quirky halftime show out the way, the second half was underway, and continued right where the first half finished, in boring fashion. Jai Quitongo had a good chance after an hour, but took a nasty fall after unleashing his shot and had to be substituted off. My thinking as to why United had been so disappointing was that they played with no width; they appeared to be playing some variation of a 4-3-1-2, with neither full back showing much overlapping prominence. On 65 minutes I turned to my dad and said “Keatings has done nothing, get him off now!” On 66 minutes, he had found the back of the net! I had earlier commented that the game lacked pace, but a quick flurry of passes from Billy King, to Scott McDonald on to Paul McMullan who fed in James Keatings. The former Hibs and Hearts man fired his shot into the bottom corner, silencing the Morton fans who had been brilliantly vocal throughout.

Morton, while not playing well in the final third, had enjoyed a good game as an away team, and scored ten minutes after going one down. Morton won a corner and Ricki Lamie’s knockdown fell to former Falkirk forward Bob McHugh. He stabbed the ball home to pump some energy back into the Morton faithful. It was a cruel blow for
United, who had seen Morton barely threaten the goal all game.

The game was won late on by former Celtic forward and Australian international Scott McDonald. The corner was whipped in by Sam Stanton and, after a mêlée around the box, saw Mark Durnan power his headed down off the goalpost. The rebound fell in McDonald, who was certainly in the right place at the right time, and he tapped it in
to completely deflate the away team. The devastation was obvious to captain Thomas O’Ware, who simply collapsed in disappointment , knowing his side were beaten. Dundee United were far from their best, but it was a deserved win against an extremely hard to break down Greenock Morton team. The victory saw United rise up to second, though they dropped to third after the Sunday game was played, and added a couple weeks of grace onto Ray McKinnon’s Dundee United tenure.

Falkirk 0-2 Livingston

The straw that broke the camel’s back. The Championship is a tricky division, and anyone can beat anyone. Losing to Livingston can happen, they are a good team. The anybody can beat anybody excuse does not hold up when you have not beaten anybody in the league yourself however. Falkirk enjoyed a solid first half, with Alex Harris coming closest for the hosts. The second half was littered with Falkirk mistakes and Livi duly took advantage. Firstly, a short back pass was intercepted by James Penrice. He passed the ball to Daniel McMullen who slammed the shot past Robbie Thompson to gift Livingston the lead. Joshua McMullin doubled the lead just five minutes later. Two goals up with a half hour to go and the boo-boys in full chorus, the fate of Houston was all but sealed before the final whistle blew. A late Livi red card did nothing to silence the Falkirk fans, as there was not enough time to rally. Falkirk had a goal ruled offside, though there was very little argument in this one. Houston was sacked 24 hours after the game, and can feel let down, not by the board, who had to make the call, but rather by the players, and their sickeningly soft mentality that have seen their manager lose his job.

Dumbarton 2-1 Inverness

Inverness took the lead early on against a Dumbarton side that were high on life after their win against Queen of the South last weekend. Connor Bell latched on to a Liam Polworth through ball to score after only eight minutes. Inverness had the better of the first half, but just three minutes into the second and they were pegged back by a Dimitris Froxylias volley just minutes into the second half. Welsh goalkeeper Owain Fon-Williams, formally of Tranmere Rovers, pulled off a David de Gea-esque save, but was thwarted by the rebound. On-loan Celtic defender Sam Wardrop was on hand to put the Sons ahead. Inverness’ day went from bad to worse as veteran Gary Warren saw red for a second yellow. The defeat leaves Caley in 8th, five points off their nearest rival. Peter Houston was the first managerial casualty of the division, but John Robertson can count himself lucky if he isn’t the second.

St Mirren 3-1 Queen of the South

A rare Sunday kick off in the division saw St Mirren host Dumfries’ premier team. A quick fire double from St Mirren put the hosts in the driving seat. Cammy Smith scored the first after 24 minutes, his low drive evading the Alan Martin in the Queens goal. Lewis Morgan scored just three minutes later from distance to put the Saints two up, then scored another distance strike early into the second half to take his season tally up to eight. Queen of the South got a goal back courtesy of a Jason Kerr header, but it was too little too late for the Doonhamers. Stephen Dobbie tested Craig Samson a couple of times, but the Saints held on to claim second spot in the table.

Brechin 0-3 Dunfermline

Bottom against top battled out at Glebe Park, and it was just as cut and dry as one might imagine. Brechin failed to defend a Kallum Higginbotham corner and paid for it as Lee Ashcroft converted to put the visitors ahead. Ten minutes into the second half and the Pars had a second, as Declan McManus headed in a Ryan Williamson cross. Brechin’s fate was sealed with twenty to play as Nicky Clark added a third with an easy tap in. Seven games have been played and Brechin City are yet to taste victory in the division. For the Pars, this was an important win which kept them atop of the promotion chasing pack.

Downtown

Kilmarnock languish at the foot of the table, still in search of their first win of the season. They hosted a Dundee side who were in a similarly poor position. Former Dunfermline goal machine Faissal El Bakhtaoui took advantage of some horrible Kilmarnock defending, dispossessing the defence from a quick free kick then stabbing home a Jamie McDonald rebound. With 65 minutes to go, former Scotland, Blackburn and Brighton centre back Gordon Greer hit home an equaliser from the six yard box, latching on to a header down from a corner. Kilmarnock have had an atrocious start to the season, but can count themselves lucky that Partick Thistle, Dundee and Ross County have also been pathetically bad thus far.

Moving on up

Raith continued their fine early season form to stay four points clear at the top of the league. They huffed and they puffed to push their way past a defensively minded Airdrieonians side, but caught their break with fifteen minutes to go. Northern Irishman Jason Thompson grabbed the first goal, and with Airdrieonians pushing hard for an equaliser, Canadian forward Dario Zanatta nabbed the second a minute from time.

The League Roundup

After match day three, the league table looks like this

Team Played Won Drawn Lost For Against G.D Points
1 Dunfermline 7 5 1 1 21 6 15 16
2 St Mirren 7 5 0 2 17 12 5 15
3 Dundee United 7 4 2 1 7 6 1 14
4 Livingston 7 3 3 1 12 9 3 12
5 Morton 7 3 2 2 11 8 3 11
6 Queen of the South 7 3 1 3 14 11 3 10
7 Dumbarton 7 2 3 2 6 9 -3 9
8 Inverness 7 1 1 5 10 16 -6 4
9 Falkirk 7 0 3 4 5 14 -9 3
10 Brechin 7 0 2 5 5 17 -12 2

After seven weeks of action, where all the teams were so closely bunched together, this is the first week that a real division appears to have opened between the bottom three and the top seven. No matter the events of week 8, the bottom three will stay in the bottom three this time next week. Good wins for Livingston, Dundee United, St Mirren and Dunfermline see those teams fill the playoff spaces, though with Morton, Queens and Dumbarton all picking up points with regularity, the aforementioned four may not all be there come the seasons climax. Next weekend see’s Dunfermline host Dundee United in a mouth-watering table topping fixture.