Big performance for big occasion

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STEVEN Pressley has built a team for the big occasion.

Tuesday night at Dunfermline was one of the biggest matches of the season, and just as they did at home to Hearts, the Bairns excelled in the highly charged atmosphere of East End Park.

Each and every player was focussed and on top of his game and that stunned the title favourites and second placed Fifers for long periods of the match.

Falkirk, replacing steel with steel in a midfield swap of Stewart Murdoch for Mark Millar, dictated the play for 90 minutes, and should have scored more.

They could have conceded more too, but in an excellent game a draw suited both teams, but the Bairns do feel aggrieved at not taking all three points.

“Sometimes in football you don’t always get what you deserve,” said Pressley, who celebrated as whole-heartedly as his players had played when Tam Scobbie converted ten minutes from time.

It was Scobbie, a Bairn who wears his heart on his shirt in every game, who slotted in the opener on 80 minutes after goalkeeeper Chris Smith spilled Pedro Moutinho’s free-kick.

Moments earlier, Scobbie could have cost his side the game after slipping to allow David Graham a clear shot at Robert Olejnik. The goalkeper blocked to spare Scobbie’s blushes, and he exorcised his demons moments later in front of a ferocious away support.

It roared the team on from as early as 7.18 p.m. and even the early injury that curtailed Jack Compton in the tenth minute couldn’t quieten them.

Only when Andy Kirk spun in the box to equalise in the 85th minute did the Bairns in the stand’s backing pause.

There was silliness from both sets of fans, smoke bombs from Falkirk and retrospectively reluctant pitch invaders from the Pars, but despite the punters getting carried away, the players didn’t and all 26 involved knuckled down to an action-packed match.

Jack Compton took the first shot, on seven minutes, before he went off injured, but Brian McLean was unlucky not to open the scoring a minute later sliding to volley at goal, but hitting the post.

As soon as Falkirk lost the winger they looked weaker and Dunfermline went close with a Liam Buchanan header across goal.

It was breathless, end-to-end stuff and Kallum Higginbotham came onto a game after replacing Compton, and terrorised the Pars defence, but should have tested Chris Smith more than three times in his impressive 80 minutes.

Five minutes before the break Dunfermline could have taken the lead. As a corner was punched away by Robert Olejnik, the goalkeeper spilled the catch from David Graham’s deflected shot back in. Kirk moved to shoot but Ryan Flynn saved his goalkeeper by clearing.

The winger then clipped a cross to the back post - but Stewart couldn’t reach with the goal gaping.

Pressley should have been proud of his team at the interval, and he told them so because the Bairns emerged pumped up for the restart.

Ryan Flynn’s supply was Bairns’ most dangerous outlet but Carl Finnigan, wrestling with Alex Keddie, was in no position to take advantage.

Dunfermline should have scored when Scobbie slipped with a quarter of an hour to go. But he later redeemed himself.

Pedro Moutinho was introduced, took a free-kick wide on the left that flew to the near post. Chris Smith got down to it but the ball trickled across the goalmouth. Ryan Flynn couldn’t connect in the stramash but Tam Scobbie could.

It was just what Falkirk deserved, but Dunfermline had been menacing all night and slowly building up to Falkirk’s constant intensity level.

They matched it in the latter stages and Kirk swung a shot past Robert Olejnik from 10 yards after Austin McCann’s cross.

It took the shine off a tireless show, but Falkirk used their time to shine on the big derby stage, and more of the same will easily see them move to more regular big occasions - in the SPL.