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Falkirk 0-1 Dundee United

Craig Conway slots home a penalty
Conway was on target from the penalty spot

Dundee United survived a second half onslaught to end a run of five league games without a victory.

Craig Conway converted a penalty on 27 minutes after Tam Scobbie had foolishly handled a Paul Dixon cross.

On the stroke of half time Bairns keeper Dani Mallo did well to beat away a powerful, angled drive from Conway.

Lukasz Zaluska made a smart save from Lee Bullen's header and Mark Stewart nodded against the base of the post as Falkirk pressed after the break.

The defeat leaves John Hughes's side deep in relegation trouble, just two points better off than bottom side Inverness, who visit Ibrox on Wednesday.

United missed a penalty during Saturday's 1-0 defeat by third-placed Hearts but their third spot-kick in as many games moved them two points behind the Tynecastle side in the race for a European place.

Francisco Sandaza led the line impressively for the visitors and they had all the early possession and pressure.

However, it was a moment of madness from Scobbie that ultimately settled the game, the Falkirk left-back inexplicably raising his hand above his head to stop Dixon's cross reaching Conway at the far side of the penalty area.

Conway slid the penalty into the bottom corner after assuming responsibility from Sandaza, who missed at the weekend.

The goalscorer threatened twice more before the interval. He almost stole in to meet Mihael Kovacevic's cross but Mallo punched clear and caught Sandaza's first-time lob.

Conway then forced Mallo to beat away his powerful effort after sharp interplay between Paul Caddis and Scott Robertson had sent him clear in the right channel.

United again looked the brighter side at the start of the second half, only for the Bairns to enjoy the ascendancy in the closing half hour.

Falkirk forced the first save from Zaluska in the 66th minute after Bullen met Burton O'Brien's corner from close range.

An even better chance followed moments later but Stewart headed against the woodwork with Zaluska beaten after surging on to Bullen's lofted ball to the far post.

An off balance Steve Lovell then headed on to the roof of the net after Stewart's flick-on but Falkirk could not break through the United defence.

With just a few minutes remaining, United defender Darren Dods, who had been a rock at the back, got his head to a corner kick but sent the ball over the top of an unguarded net from close range.

Falkirk manager John Hughes:
"I wanted us to fly out of the traps and really get at them but we were so sluggish in the first 20 minutes.

"The finger of blame will be pointed at Tam Scobbie but he's one of my boys and I know he's a really hard-working guy and a lovely footballer.

"He's been hampered by injuries and only trains a few days a week.

"Maybe the penalty was down to mental fatigue after playing two games in such a short space of time.

"The players gave me effort in abundance but we're not playing relaxed football because of the dogfight we're in."

Dundee United manager Craig Levein:
"I think any neutral would acknowledge we had the better chances, although Falkirk put a lot of balls into the box.

"I'm very pleased with the way we defended right throughout the team.

"We don't have a great record here and the victory was very important for us.

"The penalty was quite bizarre. It was a great ball in from Paul Dixon and it was a definite handball. I can't explain it but we'll accept the gift."

Falkirk : Dani Mallo, Bullen (Finnigan 80), Scobbie, Pressley, Barr, Riera (Stewart 46), Cregg (Aafjes 84), O'Brien, Arfield, Lovell, Higdon. Subs Not Used: Olejnik, Holden, Mitchell, Lynch.

Booked : Barr, Pressley.

Dundee Utd : Zaluska, Caddis (Wesolowski 74), Dixon, Wilkie, Dods, Kovacevic, Buaben, Conway, Gomis, Sandaza (Feeney 70), David Robertson (Daly 85). Subs Not Used: McGovern, Dillon, Grainger, Shala.

Booked : Dods.

Goal : Conway 27 pen.

Att : 4,385

Ref : D McDonald

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