When it’s December, and your team is winless in the league, and you’re finally playing well, with a 1-0 lead, it’s probably not a good idea to punch the opposition striker in the face in full view of the referee.
That’s exactly what Jack Baird did in the first half of St Mirren’s Ladbrokes Championship clash with Falkirk. Tussling with Lee Miller for an aerial ball, both fell to ground. As they looked to get back to their feet there was a bit of holding. But still, striking Miller in the face, as Baird did, was only going to result in one outcome: his side going down to ten men and that elusive victory slipping away from what was an entirely winnable game against a lacklustre Falkirk side.
“For me, it was a sending off,” said Buddies boss Jack Ross. “I’ve not watched it back, but from seeing it at the time I thought it was a red card. It’s a poor decision to react in that way. There’s a suggestion that it’s because of something that went on before it, but if you’re looking for retribution, there are more subtle ways in which to get it.”
Until Baird’s moment of madness, the Championship’s bottom side were upsetting the odds to lead play-off chasing Falkirk, with the home crowd growing increasingly exasperated by the ponderous efforts of the hosts with each passing minute. The visitors started the game with greater urgency and fashioned a half-chance within the opening 60 seconds, as Kyle McAllister curled an effort wide from the edge of the area.
James Craigen forced Scott Gallacher into a low stop at the other end before St Mirren took the lead. Rocco Quinn picked out John Sutton, and when the striker nodded back into the path of Lewis Morgan the young midfielder did excellently to flash a first-time strike past Danny Rogers and into the Falkirk net.
Luca Gasparotto had a header saved by Gallacher as Falkirk had their brightest spell of the opening half. Penning St Mirren back, they had further opportunities through John Baird and John Rankin, but there still wasn’t enough quickness in the play to quell the dissatisfaction of the home support.
Then came the sending off. It was such a blatant red card that referee Craig Thomson didn’t even bother waiting until Baird was facing him, as the young defender got caught up in the melee which followed his clash with Miller.
St Mirren kept their composure for the remainder of the half, but looked doomed 60 seconds into the second period when Myles Hippolyte cut the ball back for Miller, fittingly enough, to level the scores with a side-footed effort from six yards.
In fairness to St Mirren, they kept fighting and caused Falkirk a few problems prior to the second goal. Gasparotto was a little fortunate that his glanced header, as he tried to clear a Magennis cross, did not find the back of his own net on 71 minutes.
Falkirk had introduced Craig Sibbald at half-time and made a further change on 75 minutes when Robert McHugh made his way on to the field. The two substitutes would be involved in the build-up to the second goal, with Sibbald slaloming into the box before McHugh flashed a shot off the midfielder’s toes that Gallacher did well to turn round the post. From the resulting corner, Aaron Muirhead headed back across goal and McHugh was on hand to finish from close range.
To add insult to injury for the travelling St Mirren fans, who had booed Hippolyte consistently after he’d been booked for diving, it was the Falkirk winger who rounded off the scoring with a low drive that managed to beat Gallacher at the keeper’s front post.