Alloa 3 Falkirk 0: Roberts off again

Photo: John Devlin. 08/03/14. FALKIRK, Westfield Stadium, Falkirk v Livingston. Falkirk manager Gary Holt.
Photo: John Devlin. 08/03/14. FALKIRK, Westfield Stadium, Falkirk v Livingston. Falkirk manager Gary Holt.

The first goal in over 250 minutes between these sides gave Alloa a win and probably ended Falkirk’s faint title hope.

Substitute Eddie Fearns’s 71st minute strike after Phil Roberts had been red-carded gave the Wasps three precious points in their battle to stay in the Championship and increased the likelihood of Falkirk sharing the division with their Clackmannanshire neighbours next season.

The home side added to their haul with a header each from Kevin Cawley and Ryan McCord as the Bairns limped towards the 90th minute.

The best the Bairns can hope for now is an almighty collapse from Hamilton and Dundee above them and a good run in the play-offs.

It was never an easy afternoon against the Wasps who had yet to score, or concede against the Bairns in the previous two league meetings.

Falkirk were forced into an early change when Graham Bowman replaced Michael McGovern in the warm-up, but the change didn’t unsettle the Bairns and they spent the entire first ten minutes on the attack, swinging crosses in aimed at Mark Beck. Few connected and went over, others were near misses but for the opening quarter of an hour there was only one team in the match.

Bowman showed safe hands when necessary, but was hardly troubled. At the other end, Scott Bain had to make a point-blank stop from Conor McGrandles after 18 minutes when the young midfielder charged through.

The same happened at the other end when ex-Shire man Kevin Cawley raced past David McCracken and fired a shot that skimmed the outside of the post from 20 yards. Proceedings had descended into a scrappy affair with Falkirk apparently struggling to read many bounces of the ball on what appeared a heavy synthetic surface.

A header across goal moments later by Vaulks wasn’t picked up by the Wasps defence, and Beck’s pivot and shot was somehow diverted wide by Ben Lindsay. Beck had another opening a minute later when he headed off the bar and Vaulks had a header beaten off the line by Bain before he was penalised for a push.

First half Phil Roberts and Conor McGrandles had excelled for Falkirk with Kingsley, Vaulks and McCracken looking assured at the back. But Roberts again blotted his copybook with a petulant kick at right-back Michael Doyle who had held him off after a 60yard sprint by the Bairn up the left-wing. Unecessessary bookings had accumulated to punish the Bairn and he missed last week’s match at Hamilton, but he marked his return to the team - just the wrong one.

His battle with Doyle had stolen his focus and when Alloa were pushjing in midfield an off-the-ball barge on his marker was enough for George Salmond to red-card the forward right in front of the dug-out. Gary Holt was incredulous and as he remonstrated Roberts dislodged the visitor’s ice bucket all over the technical area.

The Wasps went close in a goalmouth scramble just after the hour mark but Barry Smith had his head in his hands as Bowman scrambled the ball off his line.

The Bairns had a chance from a free-kick from Mark Millar territory on 68 minutes after the midfielder was toppled but he himself curled the kick over the bar as Lewis Small replaced Blair Alston.

A combination of McCracken and Mark Beck forced Scott Bain into another save as the ten-men pushed for a goal. It came, but at the other end. Sub Caldwell turned McCracken and ran on before firing high into the net from a tight angle.

The Bairns were desparate nto hang in there, in the game and Championhsip race, and switched to a very strange system with Chalmers and Kingsley joined by Millar at the back and McCracken joining Beck at the top end of the formation. The experienced stopper had been excellent at the back in the first half but the switch allowed Kevin Cawley room to exploit the gaps and head in the second for the Wasps.

Alloa added to their lead on 87 minutes with a header from Ryan McCord and almost a fourth with a free-kick from former Bairn Iain Flannigan that hit the bar.