Late goal specialists Falkirk got a taste of their own medicine as managerless St Mirren showed the kind of resolve their opponents are usually renowned for, rescuing a point from this low-key affair in front of the BBC Alba cameras.
Peter Houston’s side were on the cusp of extending their winning run to six games, thereby joining Hibs in second place, thanks to an early Craig Sibbald goal. However, interim Buddies boss Allan McManus threw on Rangers loanee Tom Walsh in a desperate attempt to get something from the game, and got his reward when the young winger found the back of the net with three minutes remaining.
A point isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but just having something to celebrate was tremendously important for the home faithful, who’ve had a lot to endure so far this season. Those situated in the main stand for this contest struggled to see the action for the first hour (not that there would have been many complaints) thanks to the glare from an unseasonably hot sun. In a quirk of Scottish weather, as supporters shielded their eyes, the players were rained on at intermittent periods during the first half. For, while the sun blazed in the distance, a dirty grey cloud hovered directly above the stadium.
It was an apt metaphor for St Mirren’s season to this point. They remain the only side in the division without a win, an unwanted statistic that cost Alex Rae his job two weeks ago. A quick turnaround will be expected from the new boss, whomever that may be.
“It was a good point and gives the next manager something to build on,” said McManus. “I haven’t the faintest idea whether there will be a new boss before next week. I’m just going to keep working with the team until I’m told otherwise. It’s been great taking the team, and it’s given me a taste for it, but not something I’ll likely do for another five or six years.”
Hopes of the gloom lifting from the Paisley 2021 stadium were diminished as early as the ninth minute when the visitors opened the scoring. Craig Sibbald won the free-kick which he took himself, wrong-footing Jamie Langfield from 25 yards thanks to a wicked deflection off the St Mirren wall.
It said a lot for the hosts’ performance in the first half that the biggest cheer was reserved for one of the main stand ballboys, who nodded the ball back into play with a first-time header.
John Baird would have the game’s next chance as he pulled his effort wide following a clever one-two with strike partner Bob McHugh.
Each side had an opportunity right before the break. Hardie blazed over from 12 yards, before Bob McHugh saw a back post header saved by the legs of Langfield. Falkirk thought they’d netted a second shortly after half-time as McHugh finished from close range, but the linesman’s flag brought celebrations to a halt.
St Mirren found luck deserting them when Rocco Quinn was given time to turn and shoot inside the Falkirk penalty area, only to lose his footing just as he was ready to strike. Hardie had a similar opportunity later in the half, but saw his shot saved by Danny Rogers.
St Mirren’s quest to find an equaliser was kept alive when Langfield made an excellent stop with his left foot to deny James Craigen.
The hosts were able to capitalise when Walsh was set off running by a Stephen Mallan pass. The winger drove to the edge of the Falkirk penalty area and calmly passed the ball beyond Rogers into the bottom corner.