Falkirk 2 - 2 Dumbarton: Nathan Austin saves Bairns' day
Nathan Austin's first goal since July ensured Falkirk did not succumb to an unlikely defeat against Dumbarton, however that was no cause for celebration as Peter Houston lambasted his side for squandering an inviting opportunity to claim second spot in the Championship.
Austin has endured a challenging campaign since making the step up from East Fife, with three recurrences of a hamstring complaint limiting him to one appearance between August and the start of February.
He appears keen to make up for lost time and he produced a fine instinctive finish to level the score at 2-2 yesterday, cancelling out two truly stunning solo strikes by Lewis Vaughan and Andrew Stirling either side of the break.
Luke Leahy had opened the scoring for Falkirk – now unbeaten in seven league matches – but, as Houston emphasised, their performance was well below the standards set so far in 2017.
“I look at our the games against Dundee United and Dunfermline, then those against Ayr and Dumbarton,” said a visibly angry Houston. “We were hungry and determined against the top sides, then we didn’t produce in the other games.
“That isn’t down to ability, it is down to our attitude not being right. We had players on the park who didn’t turn up.
“We could have gone second – and we’ll be in this division for a long time if we show the level of performance we did yesterday. I’m really disappointed.
“If you want to better yourself and play at the highest level, you can’t be up and down from one week to another. You need consistency. We didn’t have that.”
After warning shots from Austin, James Craigen and Paul Watson, Leahy did eventually breach the stubborn Sons after 37 minutes. He met a clipped pass by Aaron Muirhead in the left channel of the box and his volleyed shot floated beyond Alan Martin.
On the balance of play, that should have cracked the floodgates ajar. Instead, Dumbarton responded immediately as the evasive Vaughan danced into the penalty area and lashed a stunning drive into the top corner. As Raith Rovers’ struggles persist, their decision to loan the young attacker out to Dumbarton continues to confound.
Not to be outdone, Stirling gave the visitors the lead after the break with a sumptuous solo strike of his own, cutting in from the right-flank and producing a ferocious drive beyond Danny Rogers.
Houston’s men levelled when Austin rattled the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
And they were a lick of paint away from completing the turnaround in the dying embers as a spectacular half-volley by Craigen rattled the post.
“Falkirk are a top side, but we battled, worked hard – and showed two bits of real quality,” lauded Sons’ boss Stephen Aitken. “The goals scored by Lewis and Andy were good enough to win any game, but we’ll take a draw here all day long.”