New year, new Falkirk. A team that had enjoyed just one victory in their previous 11 games, they had also spent the last few days under fire thanks to the disgraceful antics of some fans during the midweek defeat to Dunfermline but in completely and utterly overwhelming Championship title hopefuls Dundee United, they ensured themselves some positive feedback for a change.
“I thought we were exceptional,” said the delighted Bairns boss Paul Hartley. “We have had a tough week as a club with everything that has been going on and we got a lot of negative press but this was something to cheer about.
“It was an outstanding performance after going a goal down but we dominated from start to finish against a team challenging at the top of the league. We have added a few fresh faces and I can see progress.”
The result in itself did not write off United’s title hopes, but they dropped six points behind leaders St Mirren, albeit with a game in hand. It also did not propel Falkirk out of the play-off place but they did claw back some of the deficit and, should they back this one up with a triumph in Inverness on Tuesday, they could leapfrog eighth-place Dumbarton on goal difference.
On this evidence they did not look like a side in danger and United did not look like a side ready to take a step back up to the top flight.
Csaba Laszlo had suffered just one league loss since his arrival in early November but this wasn’t just another defeat, he admitted that much himself afterwards, this was an absolute thumping and one that could have seen Falkirk racking up double figures had the post and the bar and a combination of them both not got in the way and if their finishing had been even more clinical.
“It was an unacceptable performance,” said the downbeat United boss, who took an age to emerge from the visitors’ dressing room. “Yes, you can lose games but not like that. Everybody has to look in the mirror and examine what they have done. They cannot hide behind somebody else. We didn’t lose just three points today – we lost everything that we have built up until now.
‘After ten minutes it looked a promising game for us with the goal but after that it was just a disaster.”
The fact is, Falkirk undoubtedly look a greater force thanks to new arrivals Tommy Robson, Andrew Nelson and Sean Welsh and on days like this, when Louis Longridge was unplayable and they completely controlled the midfield and bossed the United rearguard, they looked capable of scoring every time they broke upfield.
They should have opened the scoring in the fifth minute but Tom Taiwo’s shot hit the inside of the post and trundled along the goalline before going wide.
Reeling from that miss, they suffered a suckerpunch when United romped up the other end and took the lead. A superb James Keatings ball over the top was brought down beautifully by Billy King who gave himself a yard and fired home his effort.
For United it was all downhill from then. A few minutes later Longridge rattled the junction of bar and post as Falkirk fought for parity. Winning corner after corner, the question was when not if they would achieve it. The answer was the 22nd minute. Taiwo had driven in another shot which was brilliantly pushed onto the bar by Harry Lewis and when yet another corner was sent into the area Peter Grant rose at the back post to head into the net.
Reghan Tumilty put the home side ahead when he stroked home from Lewis Kidd’s cutback.
In the 57th minute Falkirk extended their lead when Longridge got the goal he deserved. Cutting in from right he hit with left foot curling it beyond Lewis. It was 3-1 going on six even at that stage.
In the 65th minute, United’s defence all raced towards the ball leaving Robson in acres of space to slot home the fourth and in the 73rd minute Longridge curled another past the keeper.
In stoppage time, Falkirk did make it six as Lewis Kidd struck.