Peter Houston: Falkirk boss argues play-offs favour Premiership side

Peter Houston
Peter Houston hopes to take his Falkirk side to the Premiership play-off final for the second year running

Falkirk manager Peter Houston insists the Scottish Premiership play-off format favours the top-flight side.

The Bairns host Dundee United on Friday for the right to face either Inverness or Hamilton in the play-off final.

Houston's men battled past Hibernian in last year's semi-final, only to succumb to a fresher Kilmarnock, losing the decisive second leg of the final 4-0.

"I still say, and it's easy for me to say this, it all favours the side who finish 11th," Houston said.

"Because, say if United were to win on Friday night, and I hope they don't, they'll go into another two games - six games for trying to get into the Premiership.

"But that's the way it was devised and we've got to get on with it. As far as we're concerned, we're still fresh.

"We hope first and foremost we can get into the final, and then use our experience and hurt we felt at Kilmarnock to try and go that one step better and get this club into a division where I think they belong."

'Great matches for supporters - tough for managers'

The Bairns, who finished second in the Championship for a second successive season behind Hibernian, have beaten United on their two visits to Falkirk this season.

Joe McKee celebrates scoring for Falkirk against Dundee United
Falkirk's Joe McKee (right) netted a stunning free-kick against Dundee United, to leave the play-off first leg finely-poised at 2-2

The Terrors have already battled past Morton in the play-off quarter-final, before the teams' first encounter produced a dramatic 2-2 draw at Tannadice.

Houston hopes the extra week of rest and preparation his players have enjoyed will boost their cause.

"We expect a difficult game," the former United boss told BBC Scotland. "It's a fact that United are going to play their fifth game in 14 days and that's a tough gig.

"However, we just have to look after ourselves. Our guys looked fresh, our bench was strong and the only decision I've got to make now is what's the right team to put out to start the game, hopefully go in front and put the pressure on Dundee United.

"They're great matches for the supporters and neutrals, great for television audiences. Tough for managers - mentally tough. because the pressure is on.

"Last year we finished with 70-odd points - in years gone by, that would have won the Championship, but Rangers still won it with plenty to spare.

"This year, we finished with 60 points; it's a case of in other times we might well have won the league. It's disappointing not to go up - we'd love to go up as the second team - however the play-offs have been introduced and you have to handle that."

'Can we handle the pressure?'

Houston's team prevailed 5-4 from a gripping two-leg battle with Alan Stubbs' Hibs in 2016, with a last-gasp Bob McHugh winner settling the play-off semi-final tie at the Falkirk Stadium.

Bob McHugh scores for Falkirk against Hibernian
Bob McHugh (number 19) stunned Hibs with a late winner in last year's play-off semi-final

"You hope that (we can use our play-off experience), because we did experience that last year against Hibs," Houston added.

"Two tough games, physically and mentally. They take a lot out of you. We have experienced that, we hope to put it to good use, but it's easy to say that we can.

"That'll depend on the players and how they go about their business tomorrow night. It's going to be more or less a full house, and this place creates a great atmosphere.

"I know we're missing a stand over the far side, but that Hibs match, some of the fans have said it was like revisiting Falkirk at Brockville in its day, the best atmosphere since the stadium was opened. Hopefully we can create that again and give the fans that result.

"These kinds of games, it's all about how you do on the night - can we handle the pressure? I don't care if players give the ball away, it's the reaction to getting it back. We will make mistakes - it's the team that makes the least mistakes that will get through the tie."

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