Falkirk 1 - 1 Ross County: Staggies snatch a point in dramatic late show

ROSS County proved they have spirit of a different kind this festive period as they maintained their six-point lead at the summit of the First Division courtesy of a spectacular late rally against Falkirk.

The Bairns appeared to have the three points wrapped up when Kieran Duffie gave them the lead with his superb 78th-minute opener, but County stretched their unbeaten run to 15 league games with a dramatic strike four minutes into injury time from Colin McMenamin.

The home side were upset at the time added by referee Charlie Richmond, and the irony of the Staggies’ equaliser coming so far beyond the 90 minutes when they had been so keen to wind down the clock before Duffie’s opener was not lost on Falkirk manager Steven Pressley. “It was a sore one in the respect that we didn’t get all three points, which I thought we thoroughly deserved,” said Pressley, who joked the equaliser had come in the 115th minute. “I thought we were excellent and how we didn’t get the three points is beyond me.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I didn’t think Ross County tried to play and the way they went about it in the second half was a clear indication they wanted a point. There is absolutely a bit of irony that the reason there was maybe the minutes added on was the way they went about their business.

“In the end, we suffered from that. Of course I felt the game went on longer than it should have, especially when the time added on allowed them to benefit from their own tactical decisions.”

Spectators were reminded over the public address that the match was, in the absence of SPL football, Scotland’s game of the day. But the disappointment for everyone concerned was that the weather did not match the billing.

With fans rounding the Westfield main stand struggling to keep their feet in a gusting wind, whistler Richmond did, however, decide against being a festive party-pooper following an inspection ahead of kick-off.

Falkirk had been given Christmas Day off by Pressley and the indications early on were that the home players were desperate to repay their manager.

Kallum Higginbotham struck the stanchion at the back of Michael Fraser's goal with a sixth-minute free-kick as the Bairns started with youthful vigour, but the experienced County line-up then settled and coped admirably with the conditions.

However, it was three minutes from the interval before the visitors carved out a clear-cut opportunity.

A mistake from Duffie allowed McMenamin to slip in Michael Gardyne but former County keeper Michael McGovern got a strong enough glove to the striker's low shot and recovered before the loose ball was blown over the line.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Bairns began the second period full of renewed enthusiasm and came within a whisker of the breakthrough ten minutes into the half. Duffie again proved a willing runner down the right flank and the full-back’s magnificent cross was bulleted just past by David Weatherston’s head. It seemed as if it would take something out of the ordinary to break the deadlock and that almost transpired in the 72nd minute. A low centre from Falkirk 16-year-old Craig Sibbald squirmed through to skipper Darren Dods but, after the veteran defender had turned away from a pair of markers, he lifted his shot too high to trouble Fraser's goal.

It was from as unusual a source that Falkirk finally found what should have proved the winner with just over 12 minutes remaining.

Higginbotham wriggled free of two County defenders and enjoyed the break of the ball before finding Duffie galloping into space on the right side of the visitors’ box. The left-foot drive he then speared low past Fraser’s outstretched right hand was as fit to win the encounter as it may have surprised the County keeper.

Higginbotham then sent a shot narrowly over as Falkirk looked to wrap up the three points, but there was to be a dramatic finale.

Tam Scobbie had bravely blocked Stuart Kettlewell’s shot deep into injury-time and although McGovern punched the resulting corner clear, the ball eventually broke for McMenamin from substitute Mark Corcoran’s shot and the striker clinically punished the Bairns’ nervy attempts at hanging on with his drive through a crowded six-yard box.

It was a climax that understandably thrilled manager Derek Adams, who suffered when Farid El Alagui knocked in a late equaliser in the fixture between the sides back in August.

“We’re delighted. We came here the last time and Falkirk scored in the last minute,” said Adams. “We’ve done it to them this time and it’s a very good point.

“We knew we didn’t want to lose the game, it was vitally important we didn’t do that because they’re one of the ones at the top of the league alongside us.”