Falkirk 3 Hibs 2: Falkirk in the play-off final after late goal

Alston celebrates opening the scoring against Hibs
Alston celebrates opening the scoring against Hibs

Falkirk are 180 minutes from the SPFL Premiership.

But they left it to the last minute as they so often do. Yet again there was nothing between the sides, but yet again it was a goal from Bob McHugh that sealed it.

13-05-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Hibernian FC. Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership play-off semi-final second leg. Falkirk goal, Blair Alston 8.

13-05-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Hibernian FC. Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership play-off semi-final second leg. Falkirk goal, Blair Alston 8.

The play-off had everything. A full stadium, end-to-end footbal - a penalty that WAS given, and last-minute drama.

McHugh bundled in the late goal that edged this season’s Falkirk and Hibs rivallry in the Bairns favour, and sets up a return against Kilmarnock, the side who relegated the Bairns six years ago at Rugby Park, where the play-off final will finish.

With the tie finely poised after Tuesday night’s dramatic 2-2 draw, the sides did not let the viewing public on BT Sport down.

The Bairns started brightly, scored through Blair Alston but were behind by half-time. But then a screamer from Luke Leahy and then, of course, Bob McHugh scored late.

13-05-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Hibernian FC. Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership play-off semi-final second leg. Falkirk goal, Blair Alston 8.

13-05-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Hibernian FC. Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership play-off semi-final second leg. Falkirk goal, Blair Alston 8.

The Bairns began brightly. Falkirk channeled everything down the left-wing getting at David Gray and it paid off. Within the first twelve minutes Falkirk earned three corners from the north-west of Westfield in a bright start by the Bairns.

Indeed so brght, Danny Rogers had only one touch before his side had the lead.

Blair Alston scrambled the ball into the net after Lewis Stevenson was caught out coming across to defend and the Bairns were ahead.

The raucous pre-match atmosphere was particularly one-sided after the strike, Alston’s 12th of the season.

And it continued, Falkirk had the better of the opening exchange but the game turned on its head in a matter of moments for the Bairns.

Keatings, picked ahead of Jason Cummings, proved why and sprinted away from David McCracken. The Bairns captain was fortunate in not conceding a openalty three days ago, but not so this time. It was just as clear a spot-kick too as he lunged and got nowhere near the ball and took Keatings down. The Hibs man dusted himself down and slammed the equaliser past Danny Rogers.

Rogers was caught out again just three minutes later by Keatings when a cross from Stokes deep on the left wing found the front-man and he floated a lovely header over the flat-footed Rogers.

In three short minutes the sting had been taken out of the Bairns by a player Peter Houston looked to bring to the club but was priced out by the Edinburgh club.

But Houston has tweaked many games at half-time and it’s brought second-half success for Falkirk.

It happened again, and how.

The Bairns held firm against a storm from Hibs. Liam Henderson bossed the second half, dropping between the defence and midfield and was rarely picked up, but he couldn’t hurt the Bairns and extend his side’s lead.

The ball slipped wide. Rogers grabbed it when he could, defenders blocked. Hibs couldn’t add to their tally.

Then Houston’s changes came, Lee Miller and Myles Hippolyte on for Falkirk, and the introduction of Scott Shepherd who replaced Blair Alston. At that stage, his Falkirk career was over.

But the flame-haired youngster was who farmed out to Brechin but returned to make a telling impact with the supply for the equaliser at Raith Rovers last month did it again.

With full-time approaching Falkirk gradually came back into the game and Aaron Muirhead made an unlikely dart into the box playing one-two and going one-on-one with Conrad Logan. He stumbled at the last but fed wide to Shepherd who swept a cross to the backpost, David Gray headed clear but Luke Leahy was racing from left-back and caught it sweet.

The defender scores few goals, but they’re never average and the rocket flew past Logan from 20 yards.

Falkirk tails were up but Jason Cummings thumped a vicious strike off the crossbar with two minutes to go and Lee Miller had to head a wickedly spinning free-kick from John mcGinn clear.

The Bairns had weathered the storm and all that was left was for Bob mcHugh to finish the script as he so often does with the last-gasp winning goal.

Falkirk will host Kilmarnock at the Falkirk Stadium on Thursday night.