Falkirk 2 - 2 St Mirren: Bairns’ title battle over

Luke Leahy holds off the challenge of Josh Todd.  Photograph:Kenny Smith/SNS

Luke Leahy holds off the challenge of Josh Todd. Photograph:Kenny Smith/SNS

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Bob McHugh scored with his first touch within seconds of appearing as a substitute to secure a draw for Falkirk as the title was officially placed out of their reach with Hibs’ victory at Easter Road.

Now the key for Peter Houston is to build momentum towards the play-offs in the three remaining matches as his side was fortunate to take anything from a resilient St Mirren side who were superior for the majority of an enthralling contest.

The Paisley men were ahead twice – through Rory Loy and then Stephen McGinn. However, Lee Miller countered before McHugh’s sensational introduction as a replacement for Miller.

Houston said: “I felt individually and as a team we were short. I wasn’t even thinking about the Hibs game because I knew it [Hibs winning the title] would happen eventually.

“Now we want to try to build momentum in our final three matches but we will have to do better than we did today.”

Saints took only six minutes to take the lead and it was such a sweet moment for Loy as he made up for last week’s penalty miss against Dumbarton with a great strike against his old club. Stevie Mallan’s cross from the left was poorly defended as John Sutton challenged in the air and the ball was diverted into the path of Loy who smashed it past Robbie Thomson.

They were desperately unlucky not to get a second two minutes later when Loy brilliantly picked out Cammy Smith darting into the box and his header was superbly saved by Thomson, who clattered into Smith in the process.

Then in 13 minutes Sutton was only inches away from connecting with Adam Eckersley’s cross and Houston must have wondered what was going on.

However, his side were back in the game in 20 minutes when Saints were so slack at a set-piece.

Eckersley tried to usher James Craigen’s free-kick out for a goal kick but Luca Gasparotto made the ball his, cut it back across goal and Miller slammed home from six yards.

The leveller changed the course of the action and the Bairns might have gone ahead in 29 minutes when Miller cleverly slipped in John Baird but his left-foot shot was well blocked by Gary MacKenzie.

Then it was Loy’s turn to spurn an opportunity when Saints came swarming forward on the breakaway in 36 minutes.

Mallan picked him out on the left side of the box but he horribly miss-kicked with this left foot and the Falkirk fans let him know all about it.

St Mirren regained the lead in spectacular fashion in 59 minutes when McGinn took a pass from Cammy Smith 20 yards out and curled a fantastic right-foot shot into the top left corner.

However, with 13 minutes remaining St Mirren failed to deal with Fraser Aird’s free kick into the box which broke to McHugh – who had only been on the pitch for ten seconds – and he drove a low shot into the right corner

Saints boss Jack Ross said: “It’s a measure of where we have come as a team that we come to one of the most difficult venues in the Championship to face a top four team and we’re disappointed not to win.

“The manner of the goals we conceded was disappointing but I can’t be too critical.

“My belief has always been that we will stay up but we know we face three tough games in the final period. But it’s in our own hands.”

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