If you are going to acquire a winning habit you may as well do it when it counts most. It was pretty ugly but what mattered was that Dundee United managed to record back-to-back victories for the first time since December.
This along with Morton slipping up yesterday means they are nudging closer to securing that play-off spot which recently seemed to be slipping from their grasp.
A seventh-minute goal from Thomas Mikkelsen proved to be enough as Csaba Laszlo’s men conjured a resilience and obstinacy that had been sadly lacking for much of a season they began as favourites to win the title.
A firm and fiery pitch allied with two sides for whom a first-time clearance was usually the preferred option did not for an elegant spectacle make with lots of cheaply conceded possession and aimless long balls. No one could question the commitment on display, however, and in that regard the game held an edginess throughout. United probably should have got over the line with a little more to spare but they lacked composure when it mattered.
“I’m happy with the one-nil win and the three points of course, but a little bit sad that again we had the chance to make it two but didn’t take it,” admitted Laszlo. “Generally I’m very pleased with the team performance because we didn’t give Falkirk too many possibilities to get a goal back. I think it was a deserved win for us.
“It’s very important in the next game on Tuesday against Brechin to get three points – we have already had a bad experience there. If we can keep this spirit going and support each other like today it will help us.”
Just as they had done in their equally narrow victory over St Mirren in midweek, United got off to a great start, making the breakthrough before the early sparring had subsided. It was to a large extent a self-inflicted goal on the part of the visitors, Robbie Thomson’s hurried clearance catching out team-mate Jordan McGhee. However, the manner in which Willo Flood pounced and then squared the ball perfectly for Mikkelsen to drill the ball into the net was admirable in its execution.
Both sides traded efforts after that but the better chances were engineered by the hosts, with Grant Gillespie shooting narrowly wide and then in another fine interplay Mikkelsen set up the lively Paul McMullan whose curling shot was tipped over by Thomson.
If anything the perspiration further eclipsed any inspiration after the break. Falkirk, with little to play for, were commendably determined in their endeavours to get back on level terms. They ensured it was a tense and tetchy quest for United to try to see out the game and it took a brave close range block by Deniz Mehmet to prevent Louis Longridge from netting the equaliser with quarter of an hour to go.
At the other end, Thomson wasn’t seriously troubled although the hosts had a plausible claim from penalty as Scott McDonald took a tumble under a challenge from Reghan Tumilty as McMullan’s cross hovered in to his path. The latter also sent a shot screaming wide in the closing stages, but in the end a second single goal win in a week proved to enough to calm the nerves at Tannadice.
“We made a bad mistake and it cost us,” was Falkirk manager Paul Hartley’s view.
“I can’t fault the players for their effort and attitude. It wasn’t a great game of football, there wasn’t a lot in it, so we’ve made that mistake we got punished and then we’ve had opportunities and not taken them.”