Dundee United’s lengthy unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt as they crashed out of the SPFL Trust Trophy with a 4-2 defeat against Falkirk.
United, who had not lost in 17 outings prior to Friday night’s quarter-final showdown, fell behind through Callumn Morrison’s early strike.
The Tangerines turned the contest on its head before the break, with Mathew Cudjoe and Tony Watt striking. That papered over the cracks.
Falkirk ran amok in the second period with Tom Lang, Finn Yeats and Morrison all finding the net during a crazy five-minute spell for the Terrors, littered with poor decision-making and individual errors.
United boss Jim Goodwin resisted the urge to make widespread changes, however Ross Graham, Chris Mochrie, Declan Glass and Cudjoe were afforded opportunities to start.
Declan Gallagher, Louis Moult (although on the bench), Jordan Tillson and Kai Fotheringham – on international duty with Scotland U21s – all dropped out.
Falkirk took just four minutes to break the deadlock, with John McGlynn’s men rewarded for an energetic, high-pressing start.
A deep delivery from Leon McCann was perfect for ex-Hearts winger Morrison to ghost in and slam a clinical first-time finish beyond Jack Walton.
Morrison was causing havoc.
His pin-point cross was narrowly headed over the bar by Calvin Miller as the hosts pushed for a second; in keeping with a team boasting 43 goals in 19 games prior to this encounter.
United belied a hugely underwhelming opening 25 minutes by levelling through Cudjoe.
The tricky Ghanaian, at least seeking to be positive, cut inside from the right flank and unleashed a speculative effort from distance that was woefully spilled over the line by Bairns keeper Sam Long.
Who are you giving the goal to?
— SPFL Mediawatch (@SPFLWatch) November 17, 2023
Falkirk were straight back on the offensive, with Declan Glass forced to divert a goal-bound Lang header over the bar.
But United were nothing if not clinical and completed the turnaround before half-time courtesy of another Watt stunner in this competition.
Scott McMann slipped a low pass to the stand-in skipper – leading the line in place of Moult – and he fizzed a drive past Long, via the underside of the bar.
Second half collapse
Falkirk restored parity when a Morrison free-kick hit the bar, only for Lang to react the swiftest in the box and bundle the rebound over the line.
Just three minutes later, Falkirk reclaimed the lead, with Yeats calmly firing past Walton after the United keeper could only parry a Calvin Miller effort into the path of the onrushing midfielder.
Tadhal eile! Tha Callumn Morrison a' faighinn tadhal eile a-nochd is tha Falkirk a' ruith air falbh leis a gheama.
Morrison extends Falkirk's lead and gives them a chance to run away with it. pic.twitter.com/IChaVtqkoR
— BBC ALBA (@bbcalba) November 17, 2023
And a five-minute capitulation was completed when Kevin Holt inexplicably played a blind pass towards Walton – seemingly oblivious of Morrison’s presence. The man of the match hared through on goal, rounded the keeper and tapped over the line.
Star man: Callumn Morrison (Falkirk)
Morrison was the star performer for the Bairns and United’s tormentor-in-chief.
His brace was superbly taken, while Lang’s leveller to make it 2-2 owed everything to Morrison’s firecracker of a free-kick from the edge of the box.
Aside from his goal involvements, his direct running and dangerous deliveries were one of the defining aspects of an excellent display by McGlynn’s men.
Dundee United player ratings
(4-3-3) Walton 6; Grimshaw 6, Graham 6 (Carnwath 85), Holt 5, McMann 6; Sibbald 6 (Stirton 80), Mochrie 5 (Tillson 63), Glass 5; Cudjoe 6 (Moult 63), Watt 6, Middleton 6. Subs not used: Adams, Denham, Freeman, Duffy, Domeracki.
Ref: Grant Irvine
Att: 2891 (558 away)