The first weekend in October saw us head to Falkirk for their home game with Dunfermline Athletic.
This fixture is something of a Derby match and a decent crowd was expected. The stadium is situated just off the motorway and although it was busy on the approach, we did eventually find reasonable parking in space next to an industrial area five minutes walk away from the main stand.
In terms of atmosphere and entertainment it didn’t disappoint, it was just a pity that our pre-match experience was soured by events in the ticket office. Having arrived a good twenty minutes before kick off, we weren’t sure if there was a pay at the gate option so we asked a steward who told us to “try the next stand”. We asked the same question to the next steward and he said he didn’t know!
Going for third time lucky, we eventually got a straight answer from a member of staff with some courtesy who said we required a ticket to get in . He said that we would have to go back round to the club shop which is situated next to the main stand as the ticket office is also in there.
As we waited in the queue we heard the staff telling someone it was “sold out” and thought for a minute the game was a sell out. When it was our turn to be served it transpired that the Family section was allegedly sold out. I explained that we weren’t locals, that we were just here to see the game and if any discretion could be used. Our only alternative apparently, was to buy individual match tickets at £19 for adults and £9 concessions.
This meant that it would personally set me back £37 to watch a Scottish First Division game! Is it any wonder football crowds in this country are in rapid decline?! It is somewhat ironic that the admission prices of the current top two clubs in this league are less than half of that figure, while Falkirk linger in the lower reaches.
So having bitten the bullet with the admission prices and come to terms with the financial shafting, we then set about finding whereabouts in the main stand we would be seated.
Both teams have had mixed fortunes on the park with Dunfermline starting the season in fine winning form in what is Manager, Jim Jeffries’ first full season in charge. He would be up against his former Captain at Hearts, Steven Pressley who led his young Falkirk side to the League Cup Semi Final and a respectable finish in Division One last season.
The home side have former Celtic Reserve keeper, Michael McGovern as their number one, the experienced Darren Dods at centre half and young Lyle Taylor up front who has grabbed a few headlines with his goals so far this term. Also in the Falkirk line up was the much travelled defender, Robbie Neilson turning out as a Trialist at right back.
For Dunfermline, they had the experienced Paul Gallagher in goal along with former Manchester City and Burnley defender, Stephen Jordan at left back. They can also count on the goals from Andy Barrowman, not to mention Craig Dargo and Andy Kirk who were on the bench.
It was Falkirk though who dominated the early proceedings and had the ‘Pars’ defence under pressure from a couple of long throw-ins into the box. The home side had a half chance just before a quarter of an hour was played when Lyle Taylor nearly took advantage of a poor Andy Dowie header back to his ‘keeper, Gallagher but the situation was cleared up by defender, Callum Morris.
The away side did get more of a foot hold in the game and after a nice exchange of play just on the half hour mark, Jordan McMillan shot just over from a Joe Cardle cross. A minute later though it was Falkirk who took the lead. It wasn’t quite route one stuff but a stunning low through ball from Kieran Duffie midway through his own half found Lyle Taylor. He took it in his stride and outpaced two Dunfermline defenders before going on to slip it past Gallagher’s left hand post and make it 1-0.
The visitors only reply after going behind was a Barrowman header that went over the bar, meaning they went into the half time break a goal down. They did however start the second period better than they had started the first and ‘Bairns’ goalkeeper, McGovern held firmly from a dangerous Ryan Wallace cross.
Ten minutes after the restart, Falkirk doubled their lead and again it was Lyle Taylor who did the damage. A clearance out of the Dunfermline half by Jordan was immediately headed back and controlled fortuitously by Blair Alston I think it was, who back heeled it into the path of Sean Higgins. He then lifted a superb weighted ball over the Dunfermline defence for Taylor to smash a shot low into the net past the helpless Gallagher.
Dunfermline hit back and had a couple of set pieces from Stephen Husband and Joe Cardle that kept the Falkirk defence on heir toes. The ‘Pars’ Manager, Jim Jeffries made his first change in order to salvage something from the game replacing Josh Falkingham with Ryan Thomson.
The experienced Stephen Jordan found himself in the refreee’s book when he took his protest too far following a penalty claim for handball that wasn’t given from a Cardle corner. Alston nearly made it three for Falkirk when a long distance shot was well held by Gallagher.
Dunfermline then threw on Andy Kirk for Cardle to try and get a goal and his introduction did make a difference with him linking up better with Barrowman. In the opposite dug out, the bearded and brown brogued Steven Pressley made a couple of changes to try and close the game out and preserve the potential three points. His antics on the sideline were very amusing as he gestured to his players, with note pad in hand like he was taking an aerobics class!
The Falkirk coaching staff have an interesting routine for when the player being replaced comes off the pitch. Each one is embraced with a ‘man hug’ by Pressley before Alex Smith, Stevie Crawford and Neil MacFarlane all follow suit!
With twelve minutes left, Dunfermline were back in the game. A long ball played down the right hand side was picked up by Ryan Wallace who tangled with the full back. The ball broke free and he managed to put a low cross into the box where it looked to have taken a slight deflection off a Falkirk defender. It merely fell to Andy Barrowman who swept a left foot volley high into the net to reduce the deficit. Game on.
Dunfermline were shooting into the end which housed their large traveling support for the second half and they were a source of inspiration to the players. Ryan Wallace was pivotal in everything they created and having got themselves back into the game, three minutes later they were level at 2-2.
A Wallace corner from the left was floated to the front post, nobody tracked the run of substitute Ryan Thomson and his bullet header left McGovern with no chance to level things up. Falkirk were on the back foot and were in danger of not even taking a point from this game as Dunfermline went all out for a winner.
Another Wallace corner had the home side in a panic as McGovern saved from Thomson, and Barrowman maybe should have done better from a header six yards out. There were no more chances after that and both sides shared the spoils. You could argue that Falkirk threw it away but it was a resilient display from Dunfermline as they remained top of the pile after the weekend’s fixtures.
Exiting the stadium is by going down the steps of the main stand and onto the track then out the right hand corner gate. It was busy getting out onto the main routes but as you are next to the motorway we were on the road home not long after.
Falkirk moved to this ground in 2004 having previously played at Brockville for many years prior to that. It was originally known as The Westfield Stadium but over the last few seasons it seems to be commonly referred to as The Falkirk Stadium.
It has three impressive stands though one side, opposite the main stand is currently vacant land. During the recent seasons in the Premier League this area had a temporary enclosure.
Outside the main stand it has a similar facade to that of Hampden Park, it is very modern looking and the facilities inside are clean and well maintained. Around the perimeter of the ground it has well kept paths and walkways with a club shop that caters well for home supporters.
With the exception of one steward the rest were not very helpful, but the rest of the other staff we encountered were pleasant enough. Where we were situated in the main stand the fans were vocal and supportive of the team.
On contacting the club the following Monday about the pricing for this game the response received was unfortunately pompous and arrogant. The whole episode was especially disappointing as we were a group of strangers going to the Falkirk stadium to experience a home game for the first time.
It wasn’t exactly the best display of good public relations but the club were clearly keen to exert as much money as possible from this particular fixture and sometimes greed knows no bounds. At least Dick Turpin wore a mask! An impressive stadium certainly, but we’ll not be back to visit again in a hurry.