TWO weeks ago Falkirk’s title challenge was seemingly kept alive by the awarding of a debatable late penalty. Yesterday they were the recipient of another such gift, but their failure to take it may ultimately kill their championship aspirations.
Scorers: Falkirk - Alston 82; Livingston - McNulty 35
Once again it was Mark Millar standing over the dead ball from 12 yards. Just as he did against Queen of the South, the midfielder chose to drive it straight down the middle. This time Darren Jamieson stuck out a leg to deny Falkirk the points.
It capped off an enthralling end to a match that took a long time to come to the boil. Marc McNulty’s first-half header gave the visitors an unexpected lead that Falkirk laboriously tried to cancel out. It wouldn’t be until the introduction of Blair Alston and Craig Sibbald that they sparked into life, with the former scoring the equaliser and the latter winning the penalty.
The decision so incensed Livingston captain Simon Mensing that he entered into a physical encounter with Sibbald which descended into a pushing match between both sets of players, with Phil Roberts red-carded for his part in the melee.
“We’ll need to look at the video tape to see if we can appeal it,” said Falkirk manager Gary Holt. “It’s supposedly been for an attempted headbutt, but Roberts is saying he didn’t.What I want to know is how their man never got sent off as well for manhandling Sibbald on the deck. As usual it’s the boy that starts it that gets away with it.”
For long periods the dramatic finish never looked like coming. The hosts had started the game well with Roberts seeing an effort tipped wide by Jamieson and Rory Loy just missing the far corner with a curling effort. But they were Falkirk’s only chances of note in the first 80 minutes.
The opposition didn’t create much either, but their gameplan was to frustrate the favourites – who’d won all three games between the teams prior to kick-off – and they took the first opportunity that came their way, McNulty directing a Jason Talbot cross in off the far post.
With ten minutes remaining Rory Loy passed up a glorious opportunity to level when he tamely shot at Jamieson, but the equaliser wasn’t far away. Loy’s shot from 20 yards deflected into the path of Alston and he stabbed the ball into the far corner, setting up the thrilling finale.