VIAPLAY CUP progression may just be beyond them, but an efficient Dundee United recorded another ship-steadying victory at Falkirk

It manifested in no small part thanks to a moment the home side’s Tom Lang will be in no hurry to watch back, rolling the ball idly across his own box to give an alert Kai Fotheringham the simplest of finishes.

Two defeats from their opening two matches - the first a particularly galling result against Spartans, the SPFL’s newest club – ensured qualification was a remote prospect even before kick-off. And they will require a mathematical miracle to progress from here, with Partick Thistle in pole position win Group B and only three progression places available to runners-up. But having comfortable defeated Peterhead at the weekend, another three points here brightens the outlook heading into a crucial league campaign.

Falkirk’s hopes have not quite been extinguished either, but despite dominating the second-half could not find a way past an improved and resilient United rearguard. Here are three talking points from the Falkirk Stadium.

3 talking points

United tighten up

It’s been a far from ideal start to Goodwin’s first full season in charge at United, but these last two outings might just feel like a steadying of the ship. What was evident here was an improved defensive organisation; Falkirk found it largely difficult to pass their way through a compact tangerine unit.

Fotheringham, a United academy graduate, was in the right place at the right time to capitalise on Lang’s mistake, only to then frustratingly be withdrawn through injury. His team-mates could, and should, have added to their lead. Tony Watt, who was otherwise impressive in his link-up play, suffered an off night in front goal and passed up two glorious chances to score.

With Louis Moult waiting in the wings to come into the fold, you feel a goal may just have worked wonders in the striker’s bid to revive his Tannadice career. With a proven finisher in Moult for competition, how his comeback bid unfolds from here will be fascinating to watch.

Falkirk lack finishing touch

Denied two wins from two only by a last-gasp James Lyon goal at Firhill on Saturday, Falkirk at least consoled themselves with the acquisition of a bonus point in the ensuing penalty shootout. But given the Group B standings before kick-off, this was a considerable opportunity for the Bairns to possibly tee up another cup adventure in the vein of last season’s run to Hampden in the Scottish Cup.

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They looked the brighter side in the opening stages but Lang’s error became emblematic of an inability to break through the United lines. A John McGlynn team will always look to play but he will have been disappointed by the lack of incisiveness in his team’s play. As the first-half wore on, United gradually took a stronger grip of midfield and McGlynn shuffled his pack by hooking Ola Lawal for Brad McKay at the interval. 

They dominated territory in the second-half, but the closest they came was through a set-piece as Callumn Morrison’s deflected free-kick looked set to deceive keeper Jack Walton, but he reacted impressively to claw the ball away.

Group B state of play

This result makes Partick Thistle firm favourites to progress as group winners, and they can confirm themselves as such by beating Spartans at home on Saturday. In hindsight, that point acquired at the weekend looks increasingly important for them.

Falkirk themselves aren’t out of it just yet, and can still finish on eight points if they overcome Peterhead at the weekend. Whether it proves enough could depend on results elsewhere, with only the three best runners-up joining the group winners and last season’s Premiership top six in the round of 16.

United aren’t mathematically out of it either, but they will require Falkirk not to win and Thistle not to take anything at all from Spartans to have any sort of chance. And given the lie of the land in the other groups, with several sides on six points or more already, it would be highly unlikely anyway. They do, however, have some modest momentum behind them heading into the Championship season, which was the very least that was needed after two alarming results.