42 Grounds: Ground 9: The Falkirk Stadium

With almost no time to digest the result at Ochilview I ran out of the ground to find the taxi that I hoped was waiting for me.

I positioned myself close to the exit at full time hoping to be able to beat the small throng of fans from the game on to the roads and away from the ground.

Sadly the taxi wasn’t waiting and after a phone call it was clear it wasn’t actually ready.

Eventually it came and I arrived at The Falkirk Stadium just as the game was kicking off.

Those that know me will be aware that for family reasons I have always taken an interest in Dundee United.

Meeting my Dad at the game meant that I sat in the away end.

Ask any football fan whether they prefer a home game or an away game and I’m certain that the larger percentage would say an away game.

When sitting in the home end you often cast an eye enviously over to the colourful, noisy pocket of fans that make you realise just how miserable the atmosphere would be without them.

At away games there is a further sense of camaraderie, an unspoken respect between the fans that know they have travelled long distances out of a sense of devotion to their team.

It might be controversial and it isn’t necessarily true, but the away fan often thinks of him or herself as more loyal or even a better supporter.

One need only look at the Scotland Supporters Club which awards points for attending away games, even when reaching an away game is easier than reaching the home game for large parts of the population.

There is a status that comes with going away from home.

The sense of being up against it, in the minority encourages the vocal elements within the crowd. The journey time allowing for a few drinks to be consumed certainly helps too.

If the home end is the sterile, family friendly experience of football then the away end provides an escape for those that want it.

The ‘banter’, the goading of the opposition and the wild celebrations of goals which would be frowned upon in the ‘family stand’ are de riguer at away games.

From my personal experience the celebration of a winning goal in Elgin, for example, following a long trip is sweeter than anything experienced at a home game.

I didn’t need to be asked twice to stand in the away end though, Scottish football unfiltered.

The Falkirk Stadium is very impressive.

I remember Falkirk’s promotion to the then SPL in the noughties and the temporary stand which housed fans.

Today there were three large stands filled with fans.

The location of the stadium is stunning. Set in a peaceful part of town with ample green land and parking surrounding it.

It seems like the kind of place that a family could spend a day, particularly with weather like today, enjoying the parkland and lake nearby, before making their way over to the stadium.

The stands are modern and genuinely more impressive than I expected, given this was my first visit.

Falkirk are an example of a club that are doing things right.

They have grown their support over the years and have consistently challenged at the top of the Championship despite regularly selling their top players.

Of course the fans of any club will never be particularly happy to see their best player sold, but Falkirk seem to have a conveyer belt of talent. This is a club that does not shirk away from giving young players a chance.

In their recent history they have developed and moved on players like Scott Arfield, Stephen Kingsley and Blair Alston. They have more still playing for them.

They seem to have been a  perpetual thorn in the side of many a Championship team over the years, and have had relatively recent cup success.

They faced a Dundee United side themselves no stranger to developing and selling players. In their case that discussion might be slightly more contentious and perhaps best saved for the visit to Tannadice.

These are two clubs that will feel they don’t belong in the Championship, with both likely having an eye on the promotion playoffs this season.

The sides found themselves just one point apart in mid-table today, making the game even more important as a contest.

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The home fans behind the goal would have a perfect view of their sides winner.
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The main stand filled with home fans.

I got in to the stand around five minutes after kickoff and was told that I hadn’t missed much, thankfully.

That deadlock was broken in the 18th minute when Falkirk striker John baird headed home from a well placed cross.

This would have come as no surprise to regular followers of Dundee United, given that defending crosses in to the box has been problematic for around three years now.

While the away end can be a source of phenomenal joy it can also be an angry place, and so it proved. People spat venom, furious that their side was trailing.

Dundee United arguably had the better of the first half, playing some decent football and creating a couple of decent chances.

In the 33rd minute a well placed cross from  Dutch summer signing Van der Velden met the boot of the onrushing Tope Obadeyi to level the score at 1-1. Despite this happening fairly early in the game it was to be the goal scorers last significant contribution to the match.

At half time both sides had cause for optimism, Dundee United could have been content with the chances they had created and Falkirk with the way they had looked comfortable and threatened with their own attacking threat.

The second half was woeful from the away side.

Willo Flood, the drive in midfield, was escorted off injured and with that Dundee United were instantly poorer. A lesson from recent history for the Terrors should be that you can’t have a team completely devoid of graft and effort.

The game remained fairly evenly matched with neither side creating many chances.

As I have mentioned, the away end is a unique experience as a supporter, but if there is a home experience that can come close it is a late winner.

Falkirk got theirs in the 87th minute when yet another cross wasn’t dealt with and the Man of the Match Miles Hippolyte was credited with the goal as the ball flew past last week’s penalty hero Cammy Bell.

The Bairns in attendance were delighted, they knew they had won three points from a bruising encounter.

It only got better for them when Lee Miller added a third late in the game.

The score line might suggest a comfortable victory but it was anything but in a hard fought game.

The home side deserved the three points in the end and they will look to kick on and catch the teams above them in the league.

They have the facilities and the structures required to be a top flight team, and they will hope that this is the season they return to the highest level in our game.

Falkirk 3 Dundee United 1

BBC Match Report

Attendance: 5488

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