Peter Houston, the Falkirk manager, refused to accept their dreary display before taking some consolation from the fact they remain in the ascendancy for that crucial second-top play-off spot. The Championship’s second-placed club were forced to battle back from 1-0 down at Tannadice as Luke Leahy’s late header cancelled out Simon Murray’s opener for the hosts.
It was far from vintage from the visitors who didn’t start to turn on the style until they equalised, with substitute Scott Shepherd striking the post in the final minute. Houston, whose promotion-chasing side remain four points ahead of Dundee United and two above rivals Morton, made no excuses for his team’s performance overall. “We could have won it at the end,” said Houston. “But for 70 minutes, I felt we didn’t play anywhere near the standard we have set ourselves. That wasn’t the real Falkirk out there.
“The first half was a non-event. For two teams near the top of the division, the standard was pretty poor. So it’s probably a better point for us than United.”
There was plenty at stake in this encounter and Ray McKinnon, the United manager, wasn’t afraid to hand highly-rated teenage midfielder Scott Allardice his debut.
Having made a brisk start in the Tayside sunshine, the home team were almost gifted the lead in ten minutes when Murray dispossessed Falkirk defender Lucas Gasparotto and slipped the ball to Thomas Mikkelsen, but the Danish striker hesitated and Aaron Muirhead got back to clear the danger. Then, in 16 minutes, Stewart Murdoch put Murray clean through only for the forward to drag his shot past Robbie Thomson’s far post.
United, though, took a deserved lead in 50 minutes. Mikkelsen’s cute head flick set Murray free and the striker strode clear of the visiting defence before sending a precise finish into the far corner.
Soon after, Murray was denied a quick-fire second when his curling shot came back off the post. However, Falkirk levelled with seven minutes remaining.
Substitute James Craigen’s flighted free-kick picked out Leahy in acres of space and he planted home a header.
Shepherd then saw his left-foot effort come back off the post from Craig Sibbald’s cross as the Bairns pushed for a late winner.
“For 80 minutes, we could have been 2-0 up,” said McKinnon. “But again our Achilles heel was losing a goal from a set-piece. I’m very disappointed with that and the players know my feelings.”