IF FALKIRK can recapture their previous form and take this season’s Championship crown, they may well look back on Brian Colvin’s decision to award a 90th-minute penalty as the turning point in their campaign.
Scorer: Falkirk - Millar 90 pen
The hosts didn’t deserve a goal. In fact, the game didn’t deserve a goal. Right throughout, the two sides were sloppy in their passing, lacked any sort of inventiveness and created few chances of note.
Then Phil Roberts’ pass struck the arm of Chris Mitchell, Colvin immediately pointed to the spot and Mark Millar slammed the penalty home.
Had three more minutes elapsed without incident then any credibility in Falkirk’s title challenge would have disappeared at the full-time whistle.
Coming into the match, Gary Holt’s side had picked up only one point from their past three games and watched both Dundee and Hamilton overtake them at the top of the table.
Instead, this win, couple with Dundee’s defeat at Cowdenbeath, brings them back within three points of the summit.
“The three points are massive for us,” said Holt.
“It gets us up and running after the last couple of weeks and gets us closer to where we want to go. We were limited a bit in terms of chances, but I thought we played really well defensively.
“In the end Michael McGovern has had only one save to make and I’ll take that every week. Because if you can keep clean sheets going then you’ve got a chance of nicking something at the other end.”
To say those three points were nicked is an understatement. Queen of the South were furious with the award of the spot-kick that cost them a point they deserved more than the opposition. Roberts’ pass certainly struck the arm of Mitchell, but it was at close range and the player’s arm was down by his side; two interpretations that are supposed to stop innocuous handballs becoming game changing decisions.
“Disappointing doesn’t even begin to cut it,” fumed Queens boss Jim McIntyre. “That was a slap in the face. There is no way that can be called hand to ball. How he [Colvin] can give a penalty, I don’t know.
“We changed a couple of things in the second half and I thought it was better. We created a couple of openings towards the end as well, but I thought it had 0-0 written all over it.”
So did the rest of the 2,826 people in attendance. Outside of the opening ten minutes, when Falkirk created two chances for Connor McGrandles and David McCracken, respectively, the match lacked any sort of consistent penetration in the final third.
Falkirk lined up in a 3-5-2, which seemed to give them a pre-game advantage over Queens’ narrow 4-4-2 diamond. It granted Holt’s side space on the wings in which to cross for towering forward Mark Beck, but time and again their delivery was not up to standard. At the other end, Queens had problems of their own as they struggled to break through Falkirk’s two banks of three in the centre of the park.
It pushed McIntyre into a half-time change where he moved the team into a more orthodox 4-4-2. It allowed them to press the Falkirk passing out to the wings, granted them an increased share of possession and encouraged more fluency in their attack.
With 15 minutes remaining, Iain Russell had two attempts at a loose ball outside the area. His second sent a stinging shot towards goal that was palmed away by Michael McGovern. It was the best chance of the second half prior to the penalty.