Battling Bairns edge out Buddies

Portuguese forward Pedro Moutinho curled home a sublime free-kick

two minutes into first-half stoppage time, his sixth of the season,

before turning provider for a scrappy second goal in the 67th

minute. St Mirren substitute Andy Dorman pulled one back in injury

time but it was too little too late. Steven Pressley’s side remain

bottom on goal difference, but their first back-to-back wins of the

campaign have given their survival chances a massive lift and

brought others into the relegation mix. St Mirren were seeking a

fourth straight success at the Falkirk Stadium, but they remain

winless in the league for almost six months after a deserved

triumph from the resurgent hosts. Pressley recalled Brian McLean

after suspension in place of Tam Scobbie. Kieran Duffie, the

18-year-old defender, retained his place for just a third start.

Gus MacPherson suffered a pre-match blow as ex-Bairn Jack Ross

missed out with an ankle injury. Dorman dropped to the bench with

Garry Brady and David Barron coming in. A healthy crowd filtered in

for a key fixture, with the Paisley support almost filling the

North Stand. The Bairns, after just two previous wins at home all

season in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, looked determined for

success in the April sunshine. They made a lively start and Scott

Arfield’s six-minute free-kick, which flashed two yards wide of the

right post, saw them go close first. Barron replied with a drive

into a ruck of bodies, later pleading to referee Dougie McDonald

for a penalty for handball, before firing the rebound high over

Robert Olejnik’s bar. As the play initially excited, Duffie picked

out Mark Stewart with a superb cross from the right but the striker

shot just over on the volley. The Buddies began to look more of a

threat on the break with Michael Higdon, whose goal kept Falkirk up

last season under John Hughes, the focal point of their attack. It

had become the scrappy, tense affair many expected, yet chances

still came. Colin Healy fed Moutinho on the edge of the penalty

area but he pulled wide of the left upright. St Mirren almost

struck in the 33rd minute when Olejnik was forced to make his first

save, denying Steven Thomson, another former Falkirk player, at his

near post. On the stroke of half-time, Duffie played in Arfield,

whose drive was pushed clear by Paul Gallacher before Healy blazed

the rebound over. The sides looked set to go in goalless at the

break but in the second minute of stoppage time Falkirk’s

persistence paid off. Moutinho appeared to go to ground too easily

under a challenge from St Mirren skipper John Potter some 20 yards

from goal. The pair exchanged some harsh words before the attacker

dusted himself down and curled in a sweet right-footed free-kick

over the wall and beyond Gallacher. As the interval whistle

sounded, Potter angrily continued his protests with McDonald.

MacPherson made his first change after just 50 minutes, Dorman

replacing Hugh Murray. St Mirren were enjoying more of the ball but

Falkirk were restricting them to long-range opportunities. In fact,

chances at both ends were proving elusive as a midfield battle

ensued. Then, out of nothing on 65 minutes, Falkirk struck a

crucial second goal. Moutinho’s free-kick looked tame, but Darren

Barr got a slight flick on the ball for it to hit Higdon and

wrong-foot Gallacher. Stewart then fired just wide from a tight

angle as the home side’s confidence grew. MacPherson had seen

enough and withdrew Lee Mair and Higdon on 69 minutes, as Steven

Robb and Rory Loy came on. Tensions then looked set to boil over as

Barr and Billy Mehmet argued in the far corner, with Moutinho

rushing over to shove the Buddies striker. Both Mehmet and Moutinho

were yellow-carded. Arfield could have added gloss to the outcome

eight minutes from the end but he skewed badly wide after being set

up by the impressive Ryan Flynn. From a Chris Innes centre, Dorman

headed home from point-blank range two minutes into stoppage time

but Falkirk held on.