Falkirk 1 Dundee United 2 (agg 3-4): Paul Dixon header sends Tangerines into final

Paul Dixon scores the winner.

A Paul Dixon header just three minutes from time sent Dundee United into the Premiership play-off final on a night of drama at the Falkirk Stadium.

The Tangerines showed a barrowload of bottle and a shedload of skill as they clinched their place in the promotion decider against either Hamilton Accies or Inverness Caley Thistle next week.

James Craigen – on target in the first leg – had opened the scoring for Falkirk after just 11 minutes.

United were denied what looked like a legitimate goal on 51 minutes when William Edjenguele hammered a shot in off the bar but a foul was given against Thomas Mikkelsen as he flicked it back to the Frenchman.

The Tannadice men, out on their feet after four play-off matches, kept fighting and it was a moment of magic from Simon Murray on 76 minutes that pulled them level.

It was a mistake by home player Aaron Muirhead, who let the ball bounce through to Murray, and the striker kept his composure brilliantly to sweep a shot into the net for his 18th goal of the season. It was a great way to cap an outstanding individual display.

United were not finished, however, and with three minutes to go up popped Dixon at the far post to head home sub Alex Nicholls’ cross to send the away support absolutely crazy.

The Tangerines had made two changes to the line-up that kicked off the first game on Tuesday.

They were expected ones, with Sean Dillon in for the injured Stewart Murdoch at right-back and Dixon replacing the fatigued Jamie Robson at left-back.

The Bairns also made a couple of changes, with key central defender Peter Grant replaced by Paul Watson and striker John Baird – a sub at Tannadice – in for the benched Lee Miller.

The United end, holding near-2,000 supporters, was jam-packed as goalkeeper Cammy Bell led the team out of the tunnel.

Midfielder Wato Kuate sank to his knees to pray for a victory and then it was game on.

On two minutes, Tony Andreu tried to send Murray clear but home keeper Robbie Thomson came out to block him.

There was then a sweeping move upfield by the visitors involving Murray and Mikkelsen before Andreu shot wide from the edge of the box.

United had started well enough but they fell behind on 11 minutes.

The man who did the damage was Craigen, who smashed his low shot past Bell in off the far post after being teed up by Baird.

The visitors just had to battle back and, on 18 minutes, Andreu blasted over for United.

Mikkelsen then missed a great chance to level when he nodded over the bar after being found in a great position by a Dixon cross from the left. The Dane should have made the keeper make a save at the very least.

On the half-hour, Dixon’s cross was nodded down by Mikkelsen but there were no takers then, just a minute later, Andreu squared to Murray inside the box but his effort was blocked.

A long ball by Kuate on 38 minutes reached Mikkelsen, who had done well to stay onside, but the ball just wasn’t falling for United and his attempt to play in Murray was thwarted.

Three minutes before the break, it was Blair Spittal’s turn to send Mikkelsen off and running and this time the striker tried to curl in a shot that wasn’t too far away.

Despite looking rocky at the back, the Tangerines could consider themselves unfortunate to be behind at the break.

Roared on by their fans behind the goal they were attacking, United were on the front foot two minutes into the second period and Mikkelsen headed Dillon’s cross wide.

It was a whisker away from being 1-1 on 51 minutes when a Spittal corner was nodded back across by Durnan to Mikkelsen, with United defender Edjenguele then smashing a shot off the bar and over the line. Sadly, though, a foul had been given against Mikkelsen – a harsh decision.

United were on top now and, on 56 minutes, Andreu shot into the side-netting after great work from Murray, who had cut the ball back to him.

Just seconds later, Dillon delivered from the right and Murray’s header brought a fine save out of Thomson.

Falkirk, who had brought on Tom Taiwo for Joe McKee and Bob McHugh for Baird, had been pinned back by the visitors but they broke upfield on 62 minutes and Craigen’s shot flew just wide.

Luke Leahy then swept a cross right in front of the United goal, with nobody there to convert for the Bairns.

It was United, though, who came close next on 68 minutes when Mikkelsen played the ball back to Murray but the striker’s low shot was well held by Thomson.

Two minutes later, there was a double switch for the Tangerines as Flood and Mikkelsen made way for Charlie Telfer and Scott Fraser.

With the clock showing 76 minutes, some superb finishing from Murray brought the visitors a deserved equaliser, with the frontman pouncing on Muirhead’s error after Spittal had played the ball forward, before slamming the ball home from 10 yards.

Fraser, not long on the pitch, had to come off injured three minutes after the goal, replaced by Nicholls.

Spittal then took a booking for the team when he clipped the heels of the rampaging Hippolyte, who had come on for Craigen.

It was then over to Dixon to supply the moment of glory and keep the dream alive. Bring on the final.

.Attendance: 7,926.

Falkirk: Thomson, Leahy, Muirhead, McKee (Taiwo 54), Kerr, Baird (McHugh 58), Sibbald, Gasparotto, Austin, Craigen (Hippolyte 79), Watson. Subs not used: Rogers, Kidd, Miller, Aird.

Dundee United: Bell, Dillon, Dixon, Durnan, Spittal, Murray, Edjenguele, Flood (Telfer 70), Kuate, Mikkelsen (Fraser 70, rep by Nicholls 79), Andreu. Subs not used: Zwick, Donaldson, Robson, Allardice.

Referee: Kevin Clancy.