May 19, 2017
A magnificent second half fight-back saw United overcome the odds to reach a play-off final against either Hamilton Accies or Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Having gone behind to a James Craigan first half goal, Ray McKinnon’s side battled back brilliantly, equalising with Simon Murray strike before Paul Dixon headed the late winner.
By Peter Rundo
There were two changes, both at full-back, in the side that drew with the Bairns. Sean Dillon who replaced the injured Stewart Murdoch on Tuesday retained the right-back and on the other flank Paul Dixon replaced Jamie Robson. He dropped to the bench with Coll Donaldson coming in for Dillon.
For Falkirk, Paul Watson and John Baird came in for Peter Grant and Lee Miller.
Falkirk kicked off towards the end occupied by Arabs.
But it was Falkirk who caused the first danger a Luke Leahy cross being put behind for a corner by Mark Durnan after five minutes.
First effort on goal came at the other end a minute later, but Tony Andreu’s shot went well wide.
Like the first leg, it was end to end stuff, but with neither side creating anything clear-cut in the opening ten minutes.
But a minute later, disaster struck as the hosts went ahead.
Former Tangerine Mark Kerr played the ball long to John Baird. The striker laid the ball off to the on-coming James Craigan lashed home a low drive from 15 yards into the net via the far post.
As they looked to respond, on 17 minutes they won their first corner which eventually ended with Andreu sending a volley well over.
Midway through the half, United had their best chance so far. Paul Dixon delivered a precision cross from the left to the head of Thomas Mikkelsen, but the Dane’s effort had too much elevation.
Though enjoying the better of possession at this stage, United were struggling to make it count where it mattered – in front of goal.
But the Bairns, content to soak up pressure, posed a threat on the break, forcing several corners, all of which were dealt with highly competently by the Tangerine rearguard.
Four minutes from the interval, United had another attempt on goal, Mikkelsen getting on the end of a lofted Spittal pass, but curled his effort just over.
The second half signalled 45 minutes to save the season.
The 1984 Arabs behind the goal were in full voice as their favourites attacked that end as United won a first corner three minutes after the restart.
From it William Edjenguele hit the underside of the bar, even if the ball had crossed the line, it wouldn’t have counted as the ref had spotted an infringement.
On 53 minutes, we had the first substitution, Joe McKee being replaced by Tom Taiwo.
Three minutes later, the best chance so far went a-begging . Murray persistence down the left saw him cut the ball back to Andreu but his shot slipped inches past the near post.
United were really upping the ante now.
A minute later, Murray’s glancing header from Dillon’s cross from the right was well saved by Robbie Thomson – the first time the keeper had been called into real action.
Bairns boss Peter Houston immediately brought on Bob McHugh for Baird and within a minute, Craigen fired narrowly past – the first effort by the hosts for some considerable time.
Now Falkirk were the attacking force and after 65 minutes, Luke Leahy hammered the ball across the face of the goal but fortunately there were no takers.
At the other end, Mikkelsen cut the ball back for Murray whose low drive was well saved by Thomson at his near post.
With 20 minutes left, Ray McKinnon made a double substitution, introducing Scott Fraser and Charlie Telfer for Mikkelsen and the clearly tiring Flood.
And on 76 minutes, then Arabs behind goal erupted with ecstasy as Murray equalised.
A long ball upfield was flicked on by Blair Spittal and Murray latched on to it and netted with a compose finish from 12-yards – keeping up his record of scoring in every play-off game.
Both teams made changes, though United’s was enforced, Fraser having to go off and Alex Nicholls was his replacement.
Falkirk’s was tactical with Myles Hippolyte taking over from Jamed Craigan.
And as the tension mounted, Myles Hippolyte was charging forward, only to be tripped by Spittal who was booked for his trouble.
Then three minutes from time, came a moment to savour – the winner.
Nicholls crossed from the right and Paul Dixon, at the back post, stooped to head home from close range.
As four minutes of added time were announced, Aaron Muirhead and Murray were booked for an altercation at the Falkirk end.
But otherwise the additional time passed uneventfully and the final whistle was greeted by unmitigated joy by all Arabs.
Man of the Match: The fans were brilliant and helped inspire the team, but so too did Simon Murray with his goal and unselfish running which was an inspiration to his team-mates.
Falkirk: Thomson, Leahy, Muirhead, McKee (Taiwo 53), Kerr, Baird (McHugh 60), Sibbald, Gasparotto, Austin, Craigan (Hippolyte 79), Watson.
Subs not used: Rodgers, Kidd, Hippolyte, Miller, McHugh, Aird.
United: Bell, Dillon, Durnan, Edjenguele, Dixon, Flood (Telfer 70), Kuate, Spittal, Andreu, Mikkelsen (Fraser 70 (Nicholls 78). Murray.
Subs not used: Zwick, C Donaldson, Robson, Allardice.
Referee: Kevin Clancy
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