Falkirk 0 Hearts 3: Jambos on the brink of title

Will Vaulks and James McDonaugh
Will Vaulks and James McDonaugh

Falkirk failed to delay Hearts’ title-party as the Bairns were convincingly beaten by the champions elect.

Hearts began the game in the knowledge a win could see them crowd Championship winners tomorrow afternon, dependent on the result between rivals Hibs and Rangers.

But Falkirk, the last and only team to defeat them in the league this season were on an incredible run of form, losing only once in all competitions since the Jambos’ last visit to Westfield and unbeaten since the start of 2015.

But they tasted defeat or the first time in a long time despite their best efforts in an entertaining first half.

Falkirk pressed when they inflicted the Edinburgh side’s only league defeat and they went for Hearts again.

They won several first half corners but failed to really test Neil Alexander and there was a lack of co-ordination upfront between John Baird and Taylor Morgan.

The big man was unlucky to be flagged offside after 17 minutes when he put the ball in the net, but afterwards his confidence dripped away and Baird became the organiser up front as well as the tormentor of Hearts’ defenders.

The Bairns were pushing but were being picked off by Hearts patience and when they attacked they really threatened. Osman Sow got the better of Kieran Duffie shortly before the half-hour and when he hit the by-line he had a cluster of onrushing team-mates to pick from. He chose Jamie Walker and he scored via MacDonald’s best efforts to save with his feet.

MacDonald had already foiled the hefty Genero Zeefuik one-on-one after a midfield stray pass from Will Vaulks and went on to claw a strike from Osman Sow out of the top corner.

But the Bairns had pushed and played positively in the first half and though one behind there was optimism among the Bairns at the interval,

though realism that this was the league champions in waiting, who were playing like it in flashes too.

They pretty much proved it after two minutes of the restart when Falkirk failed to clear Adam Eckersley’s pass into the box properly and it was rammed into the net by Zeefuik.

Falkirk went close five minutes later when Craig Sibbald and Will Vaulks both leapt for a header and the latter made connection but it sneaked past the post and off the net-upright to excite half of the main stand for a second or two.

Hearts looked capable for really hurting the down-trodden Bairns but in a bid to stem the tide and land a blow themselves Peter Houston pitched David Smith in for Tom Taiwo and replaced the disappointing Taylor Morgan with Botti Biabi. The striker’s record against the Edinburgh side was good having scored in two of the previous meetings.

Falkirk concentrated a lot of possession and attacks down the right through Smith but too few of the attacks had an end product.

After 68 minutes a glancing header from Danny Wilson had to be cleared off the line by Luke Leahy then the same happened to McCracken at the opposite end by Billy King five minutes later.

Jamie MacDonald had to gather a fairly tame Sow effort after some dangerous attack from Hearts as the Bairns tried and failed to play their way out of trouble.

Hearts pitched James Keatings in with ten minutes to play and with his first touches he was steering the ball beyond MacDonald in a long-ball counter attack from the visitors which prompted ‘Champion’ chants from the 3493 supporters in the away half of The Falkirk Stadium, and the home end emptied.

Falkirk: MacDonald, Duffie, Leahy,

McCracken, Grant, Vaulks (Alston 79),

Taiwo (Smith 53), Baird, Kerr, Morgan

(Biabi 53), Sibbald.

Subs: Cooper, Maybury, Bowman

Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Wilson,

Ozturk, Gomis, Walker (Anderson 86),

King, Pallardo, Sow (Nicholson 74)

Zeefuik (Keatings 80), Eckersley.

Subs: McHattie, El Hassanoui,

Hamilton, McKay.

Starshot: MacDonald (3) Sibbald (2)

Baird (1)