Date: Friday, July 18, 2014 – 7.30pm
Venue: The Falkirk Stadium
I’ll kick this post off by registering my general dislike of Friday night football, a ‘concept’ that is gradually creeping into Scottish football, all in the name of ‘progress’
I’m not convinced at all by the argument that playing games on a Friday night will bring more punters into the game than a Saturday afternoon, but accept that clubs might want to give it a try.
Why this game was scheduled for Friday night rather than Saturday, I’m not quite sure. It was one of a number of games Rotherham lined up in Scotland to help them limber up for their new season in the English Championship.
It’s the second year running that the Millers have toured north of the border, with the fact that their manager – the ‘colourful’ Steve Evans – is Scottish no doubt having a bearing on that decision.
They played and convincing beat Livingston a year ago, and had been scheduled to visit Almondvale again. Alas, plans for a Saturday afternoon friendly were canned when it became clear that the pitch wouldn’t be well enough bedded in to handle the rigours of a game at this stage.
Last year’s Rotherham side was, in my opinion, decidedly average in terms of technique and finesse, but they were big, strong and extremely fit, so it didn’t surprise me that they had a good year in League One.
On the evidence of this game, they don’t look quite as physically imposing and it will be interesting to see how they fare in the Championship.
Whereas they bullied Livingston last year, they were more than matched by Falkirk this time, with both sides using the Falkirk Stadium’s artificial pitch to stroke the ball around nicely.
The game was played at a fairly pedestrian pace at times, but that made for a more studied and technical game, something that I enjoy.
Falkirk had a good young side last season and despite the loss of manager Gary Holt they look they will cause a few problems for opposition teams again in the year ahead.
With Rangers, Hearts and Hibs all gracing this year’s Scottish Championship, it will be tough for all the smaller provincial clubs, but led by the experienced Peter Houston, Falkirk could be the best equipped to compete with them.
I especially liked the look of their domineering No 4 – Olie Durojiaye – who bossed the midfield all evening – and young left back Liam Dick who looked composed defensively and dangerous when bombing forward down the flank.
Durojiaye demonstrated his potency in an attacking sense by opening the scoring with a fabulous long range strike early in the game.
Rotherham hit back fairly quickly when Kieran Agard reacted quickest to hook the ball home from six yards after a header rebounded off the bar.
The game was punctuated with substitutions throughout the second half, and while it didn’t impact the game as heavily as in some friendlies I’ve seen, it did seem to break both sides’ rhythm, with fewer genuine scoring opportunities created.
The 1-1 scoreline looked like being the final one, but we were treated to a couple of very late goals, the pick of which was Conor Newton’s 88th minute strike for Rotherham; a beautiful curling effort which gave Falkirk sub keeper Bowman no chance.
Falkirk definitely deserved a share of the spoils in my opinion and therefore justice was done in the final few moments when Botti Biabi took advantage of some poor Millers’ defending to poke home an equaliser.
Few of the 856 punters who congregated in the Falkirk Stadium’s impressive main stand would have argued with the drawn outcome, and for the Bairns in particular the performance will have added to their optimism for the Championship season to come.
Scoring: 1-0 Ollie Durojaiye (8), 1-1 Kieran Agard (22), 1-2 Conor Newton (88), 2-2 Botti Biabi (90+)
Attendance: 856 (official)
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