Falkirk 1-1 Morton: Bairns remain top

Goalscorer Dougie Imrie fouls Bairns keeper Michael McGovern. Photograph: Robert Perry
Goalscorer Dougie Imrie fouls Bairns keeper Michael McGovern. Photograph: Robert Perry
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ON A day when Falkirk were supposed to underline their title winning credentials against the league’s bottom side they were perhaps fortunate to keep their unbeaten run intact and remain on top of the Scottish Championship.

Dougie Imrie gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of half-time, which was the least they deserved for their first-half display after defying pre-match perceptions to attack the much fancied hosts. Falkirk, in contrast, were lethargic in their build-up play, struggled to penetrate the Morton defence and could count themselves lucky that they were awarded two soft penalties which helped them get back into the match.

Rory Loy missed the first, but Mark Millar netted the second during a much improved second half. Buoyed by the goal the hosts grew in confidence but still had problems getting a clean shot on target. In the end a point apiece was a fair result.

“It’s a learning curve for them,” reflected Falkirk manager Gary Holt in his post-match press conference. “These guys are going to stand up and be counted, because we’re going to get games like this between now and the end of the season, but to a man I thought they gave me everything they had. I thought we had a lot of the ball first half. We maybe just didn’t penetrate or have runners going in behind as much as we would have liked. We were maybe a bit one-paced. We needed more people to go beyond, people to make the unselfish runs that open up space for others.”

During the first 45 minutes it was Morton who were the team making those runs. They had already created a couple of half chances when David Robertson’s clipped ball from the right was attacked at the back post by Marc Fitzpatrick. The left-back, allowed the freedom to continually advance into the opposing penalty area, rose above the defence but directed his head wide of goal.

Morton grew in confidence as the half went on, but then, all of a sudden, it appeared they would be a goal down. A seemingly innocuous bump from Robertson into the back of Connor McGrandles saw the midfielder go over and referee John McKendrick point to the penalty spot. Loy, for the second week in succession, had his spot-kick saved by the goalkeeper. This time the ball arrived back at his feet, only for Derek Gaston to once again deny him with a sprawling stop.

Instead of letting their heads go down, the miss actually fired up the home side. Unfortunately, while chasing a goal before half-time, they failed to keep their discipline as Will Vaulks naively over-committed to winning the ball near the half-time line. It allowed Imrie and Garry O’Connor to streak away behind the defence where the pair exchanged passes before Imrie bore down on goal and coolly lifted the ball over the advancing Michael McGovern.

Expecting a response, Morton sat back in an attempt to protect their lead in the first 15 minutes following the restart. Although, while Falkirk enjoyed a greater share of possession, they still looked incapable of breaking down the opposing defence.

“I thought we were comfortable,” said Morton assistant manager David Hopkin. “We expected them to come at us in the second half so we tweaked a couple of things just so we could ride out those first 15 minutes. It was working until the penalty. Their boy said it was soft, but I couldn’t see it from where I was.”

It was Fouad Bachirou who was adjudged to have fouled Craig Sibbald as the midfielder advanced into the penalty area. This time it was Mark Millar who took the responsibility and he sent the ball straight down the middle of the goal.

Falkirk pushed on and could have had a third penalty when McGrandles went down again – which his manager later said was a clearer decision than either of the other two – but this time McKendrick waved away the protests.

New signing Mark Beck had a late chance to win it late on. The towering striker nodded wide of goal after being found by Kieran Duffie eight yards out.

The home fans trudged off thinking they’d been toppled off the league table, only for the stadium PA to announce a late equaliser at Dens Park. It received the second biggest cheer of the afternoon.