Falkirk 3 Rangers 2: Injection of pace lifts Bairns to win

Falkirk celebrate Bob McHugh's late late winner
Falkirk celebrate Bob McHugh's late late winner
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Falkirk fired a second half stunner to defeat the league leaders with a last-gasp winner from Bob McHugh.

Peter Houston lured Rangers into a lull with a slow first half, then rocked Rangers with a frantic finish which sealed a win with subs Myles Hippolyte and Bob McHugh scoring after Blair Alston’s stunner.

18-03-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Rangers FC. SPFL Ladbrokes Championship.

18-03-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Rangers FC. SPFL Ladbrokes Championship.

The win seemed so unlikely after a disjointed first half but it was a sweet sweet victory for the second-placed Bairns who were blasted by Rangers in the opening ten minutes.

But a stunning fightback sparked by the substitutions has given the Bairns’ bid for second-place in the SPFL Championship a huge fillip.

It had been a blistering opening from the visitors and champions elect who appeared to get the job done early, they didn’t complete it though but for 45 minutes the result seemed a foregone conclusion.

For the first ten minutes Rangers rampaged beyond a static Falkirk defence which simply couldn’t keep up with the visitors’ attacks. Danny Rogers was left rooted to his line as James Tavernier on the by-line stroked the ball across goal and Kenny Miller tapped in.

18-03-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Rangers FC. SPFL Ladbrokes Championship.

18-03-2016. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Rangers FC. SPFL Ladbrokes Championship.

Then three minutes later a break on the opposite flank exposed the opposite side of Falkirk’s defence and a ball across the box was tapped in by Barrie McKay.

Falkirk might well have tapped out. They didn’t, fought to the finish and bore the fruit in the league table

The Rangers lead didn’t grow, but the ball was in Danny Rogers’ net two other times, both ruled out for offside, and McKay should really have had another after beating the offside trap and rounding Rogers, but he took the ball too wide and Paul Watson recovered to knock the ball off the line.

Rangers were ready and took their chances when they came. Falkirk had two glorious openings of their own but failed to convert.

Craig Sibbald could have responded quickly to the concession of the second, but fired straight at Wes Foderingham after intercepting a Lee Wallace clearance.

From the resulting corner, Lee Miller made contact but couldn’t get enough purchase on his header and it fell into empty space behind Baird and Sibbald and Rob Kiernan stumbled the ball away.

Maybe it was rope-a-dope from Peter Houston though because Falkirk improved in the second half, and more so when the Bairns boss injected pace - which had been lacking in the first half.

The introduction of Myles Hippolyte co-incided with the removal, by Rangers, of Barrie McKay and it swung in Falkirk’s favour. Kevin O’Hara and Bob McHugh lifted the tempo and the subs had a telling impact as the match drew to a frantic conclusion.

By then though the Bairns were level with a stunning comeback which seemed improbable after the limp first half.

Blair Alston smashed a stunner into the top corner after a poor header from Rob Kiernan then Hippolyte got the break of the ball and rounded Foderingham to fire the Bairns level.

Then, entering the third minute of injury time McHugh tapped in from close range from Kevin O’Hara’s for the uplifting, and at one point unlikely, victory.