A late goal from Nathan Austin sealed second place in the Championship for Falkirk and a hard-fought win in a nervous game against Dumbarton.
Falkirk manager Peter Houston was delighted to beat his former club Dundee United to the runners-up spot, meaning his side enter the play-offs at the semi-final stage on a journey he hopes will end with the Bairns being promoted to the Premiership.
He said: “It’s a great achievement for Falkirk especially with the teams that are in our league and the budgets they have. That’s two years in a row we have finished second.”
The crucial goal arrived in the 86th minute sending the large travelling support into raptures. Austin got on the end of a delivery from Luke Leahy and sent the ball into the top left corner.
Houston praised the forward, adding: “He has a lot to learn but he was a constant threat with his pace and he’s good in the air. I think next season could be a big season for him.”
The sides were evenly matched throughout an uneventful first half. Lee Miller came closest to grabbing the opener when he fired a powerful half volley over the bar.
Despite the visitors enjoying more pressure, Dumbarton almost took the lead when Robert Thomson’s flicked effort hit the bar following a great run and cross by Lewis Vaughan.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Falkirk pushing forward but being kept at bay by a resolute Dumbarton defence.
Again, it was the hosts who almost took a surprise lead in the 67th minute when the lively Vaughan fired over the bar with only Falkirk goalkeeper Robbie Thomson to beat.
Falkirk came close to the elusive goal in the 74th minute when Austin’s header from a corner was cleared off the line by David Smith.
Houston believed his side deserved their late winner, adding: “I felt in the second half, when we had the wind, we did most of the attacking and we deserved our win but it was a tough game.”
Sons boss Stevie Aitken said: “It was disappointing to lose today but the hard work was already done. I’m proud of the players for what they have achieved this season. Nobody gave us a chance, everybody was saying Dumbarton were the whipping boys and we’d be relegated.’’