Hibs 2 Falkirk 1: Battling Bairns floored by wondergoal

Craig Sibbald headed in the Bairns equaliser. Pic by Michael Gillen.
Craig Sibbald headed in the Bairns equaliser. Pic by Michael Gillen.

So near. So far. So Falkirk.

The Bairns were floored by another disappointment while teetering on the brink of a commendable achievement – and a point at Easter Road.

John Baird. Pic by Michael Gillen.

John Baird. Pic by Michael Gillen.

After a battling, committed performance by the Bairns a wonder-strike from James Keatings left debutant keeper Robbie Thomson no chance in injury time and sucked the wind from the Bairns sails.

Moments earlier they’d been seeking a winner having hit the hosts with their own sucker-punch when Craig Sibbaldheaded in an immediate equaliser to Efe Ambrose’s opener.

It puts 10 points between the sides with only 18 on offer from the remaining games for the Bairns, who are still two wins away from securing a play-off spot mathematically.

Peter Houston made a surprise move handing Robbie Thomsonhis Falkirkdebut in the sunshine on Leith.

Luca Gasparotto and Jason Cummings. Pic by Michael Gillen.

Luca Gasparotto and Jason Cummings. Pic by Michael Gillen.

Easter Road roared when the teams emerged and, after a lull to commemorate those affected by the attack on Westminster this week, it erupted again in a cacophony of noise.

Within seconds the home team were screaming for action as Luke Leahy scythed down Martin Boyle, and John Baird squared up to Andrew Shinnie in the centre circle with the game less than a minute old.

It was a sign of what was to come. Battling and commitment from both sides.

The Bairns have the best disciplinary record in the division but added to it in the first half with bookings for Taiwo and Gasparotto. Hibs had Cummings and Boyle both booked.

Lewis Kidd made way for Aaron Muirhead. Pic by Michael Gillen.

Lewis Kidd made way for Aaron Muirhead. Pic by Michael Gillen.

Thomson made a claim for a high ball from the resultant free-kick to Leahy’s early foul and then looked assured taking a cross from Jason Cummings, all the while watched by father Scott, himself an ex-employee of Hibs.

Falkirkwere playing on the break, but not that it was clear and chase football. Sometimes it was but the Bairns looked to get the ball forward and hold it up, and build attacks and several times they did so, with McHugh hooking over the best chance from the corner of the box and a Leahy blast flying over from a similar area in the first half.

The best chance of the opening exchanges, and closest we came to a goal was through Cummings who swept a free-kick just wide of Thomson’s post after Gasparotto had crudely cut-out the run of Shinnie prompting another spell of handbags and jostling and incurring a booking for the Canadian defender and Hibee Boyle.

Gasparotto was a calm presence for the Bairns at the back, and more opportunities presented themselves to his side in the second half.

A lovely little move from John Baird, Aird, and McHugh saw the Canadian make a diversionary run and McHugh and Baird play a one two putting Baird in the clear. But a drilled shot was just wide of the post.

The Bairns were fortunate on a number of occasions though. Cummings claimed for a penalty when he was bundled over by Peter Grant inside the six-yard box. He seemed to have better claim with a challenge on the edge of the box by the defender, but Kevin Clancy gave a corner when there didn’t look much, if any contact made by the Bairn with the ball.

Lewis Kidd’s back also made a timely intervention to block an effort, Peter Grant’s knee with another, but Hibs eventually broke the deadlock.

With 15 minutes to go the Bairns fell behind when Efe Ambrose bundled in from close range and then celebrated with multiple flips. He was barely back in position when Mark Kerr launched a Falkirk attack and the Bairns earned an immediate corner. Airdtook it, clipped to Sibbald at the front post and it trickled inside Laidlaw’s post for an immediate riposte from the visitors’ top scorer.

The goal brought Hibs out searching for the lead again and the Bairns made use of the space that created. But in an incredible sucker-punch a wonder-strike from the edge of the area sailed into the top corner from Keatings.

It was harsh on Falkirk, and the manager felt the same way afterwards, but with Morton losing, the SPFL Championship looks like Hibs’ to lose.