Falkirk 0 - 0 St Mirren: Saints stay top

Falkirks James Craigen and St Mirrens Cammy Smith challenge for the ball.  Photograph: Gary Williamson/SNS
Falkirks James Craigen and St Mirrens Cammy Smith challenge for the ball. Photograph: Gary Williamson/SNS
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Falkirk were forced to settle for their second consecutive home goal-less draw under Paul Hartley as St Mirren preserved their place at the top of the Championship table.

While the outcome was perhaps not the one either side had wanted at the outset, visiting manager Jack Ross was happier than his counterpart in the home dugout.

The Saints boss was able reflect on a point he believes could be crucial at the end of the season.

Praising his side’s resilience, he stated: “It was a really tough game but it’s another step forward for us. The draw was fair on reflection and the point means we came here as league leaders and leave as league leaders.

“We were under no illusions how difficult this game would be but to take the point and have four points from these two difficult away games is satisfying. We could have nicked it at the end and Cammy Smith probably deserved a goal more than anyone but we are satisfied with a point.”

After an uneventful opening period, Saints midfielder Cammy Smith forced Robbie Thomson into action with a smart low stop after the Saints player had been slid through by Ian McShane’s clever reverse pass.

With both teams looking comfortable in possession without creating any clear openings, the hosts had their first attempt on goal through defender Jordan McGhee. The ex-Hearts defender got on the end of a floated cross by Alex Harris but his looping header was comfortably plucked out the air by Craig Samson.

Tempers flared following a forceful challenge by Falkirk’s James Craigan on St Mirren talisman Lewis Morgan. Referee Don Robertson defused the handbags by awarding only a free kick which resulted in Kyle Magennis firing a powerful effort from the edge of the box over the bar.

The visitors went agonisingly close to opening the scoring through striker Gavin Reilly after 20 minutes. Ian McShane worked a short corner to Smith who cut the ball back across the box to Reilly but the striker scuffed his finish and the ball rolled wide.

Despite St Mirren having the better of proceedings, the Bairns began to impose themselves on the game and posed a considerable threat through Nathan Austin.The striker wasted a gilt-edged chance when he fired left-footed into the side netting when he had team-mates screaming for a pass.

Just minutes after his miss, Austin was played in behind the Saints defence and appeared to be tugged back by Jack Baird but the referee waved play on to the disgust of the howling Falkirk fans and boss Hartley.

As half-time approached both sides had chances to grab the opener. Austin went close with a header after a brilliant cross by Craigan and Morgan forced a magnificent one-handed save from Falkirk’s Thomson after a rasping left-footed strike from the edge of the box.

The second period was a real war of attrition and neither side took the game by the scruff of the net. The unusually quiet Reilly curled an effort straight at Thomson after finding space just outside the area and, after the goalkeeper launched a counter-attack, Myles Hippolyte powered a shot just over the bar.

Austin continued to be a threat with his pace and he produced some enterprising play down the right flank before finding Craigan who showed smart footwork to create a yard of space only to send his right-footed shot off target.

The visitors had a fantastic chance to steal all three points with virtually the last kick of the game but Thomson made a brilliant stop to deny Smith and claim his third consecutive clean sheet.

Falkirk’s manager bemoaned his team’s lack of composure in front of goal but was encouraged by their performance, saying: “I thought we were excellent today. We took the game to St Mirren and we deserved to win the game.

“We need a little bit more composure but the players have been excellent since I came in with the tempo, fitness levels and the demands I put on them.

“We are definitely on the right track and we will go on a run. We just need to take our chances because the defenders are frustrated in the dressing room as they keep getting clean sheets,” said Hartley.