Falkirk 1 Morton 0: Bairns are second

John Baird is fouled by Luca Gasparotto for the Bairns penalty, which was missed. Only addding to the nerves at Westfield.
John Baird is fouled by Luca Gasparotto for the Bairns penalty, which was missed. Only addding to the nerves at Westfield.

Falkirk finished an exhausting campaign second in the league, doing enough to edge past Morton with Hibs unable to gather the ground on the Bairns.

A diving header from Paul Watson, back from injury, eased the tension briefly at The Falkirk Stadium, but it was a nervy, frantic afternoon at Westfield.

The Bairns took care of business, winning 1-0 and holding out for the three points which challenged Hibs to regain the goal difference against Queen of The South.

They couldn’t do it. But they were almost given a hand by Morton. The last ten minutes were breathless when the Greenock side battered Falkirk’s defensive line which guarded Danny Rogers and the goal well.

One goal would have blown it, but the Bairns held on, and on a day when it was all about the goals scored, one goal was all they needed.

Yet Falkirk, for the first half, did everything but score.

The post was hit, efforts from two or three yards were saved, even a penalty was beaten away by Derek Gatson on the scroke of half-time.

There was trepidation in the Bairns’ play, but that’s not to say they were timid. They were positive and pressed Morton for the vital goal for most of the 45 minutes.

As early as the first minute they went close Gaston pushing away an Alston cross from Baird and Sibbald was unable to turn it in.

Blair Alston continued his fine form, sending crosses from the right and at corners which all went close for the Bairns.

Alston was even denied a penalty when bundled over by Michael Miller on the corner of the penalty area, after skinning THREE Ton players with some tight footwork.

But still the goal would not come. A cross from Alston was met by Luke Leahy and his header struck Lee Miller. Leahy recovered though and crossed for Sibbald who rose well and floated a header at goal but it was inches over.

The elements of farce continued to conspire against the Bairns.

Alston played a corner short to Sibbald, the 20-year-old shot was spilled by Gaston and Lee Miller stabbed goalwards. The ball hit the post, rebounded and struck the striker’s arm, and Kevin Clancy called the foul.

Gaston was denying Falkirk all over his goalmouth and in quick succession he thwarted John Baird once from two yards then again from 12.

The little striker was sent scampering into the box by Aaron Muirhead but sandwiched by Michael Miller and Luca Gasparotto. He took the penalty himself, but Derek Gaston thumped it clear with two hands.

It was the final meaningful act of the first half saved only by the fact Hibs were also struggling to score against Queen of the SOuth.

A goal would swing the second spot search in Bairns’ favour and that’s what Paul Watson brought with his diving header three minutes after the break.

The relief was evident for Falkirk, and Morton edged back into the game with possession. Elsewhere Mark Millar, the ex-Falkirk hero, was red-carded for the visitors at Easter Road and it was all still a little edgy, despite the Bairns’ lead.

Myles Hippolyte came on for Tom Taiwo in a typically attacking move by Peter Houston, then super sub Bob McHugh replaced John Baird.

The Ton were not out of the game by any means and Falkirk fans were checking phones and radios for updates.

Then Jason Cummings scored for Hibs and just two goals separated the sides. It got edgier as McManus raced in on goal and tapped past Rogers, but was flagged offside.

The Bairns responded by charging forward. Alston fed wide to McHugh but his low shot was held by Gaston.

Morton continued to try to tear up the script, Falkirk’s defending was frantic.

They made it to full-time intact though, and the wait was on for news from Easter Road.

It came through, the players paraded on the pitch and David McCracken declared to the support: “The hard work starts here.”