Morton 1-1 Falkirk: Now ifs and buts for Bairns

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Morton are down, but Falkirk are not out of the title race despite being held to a frustrating draw at Cappielow.

A manic ending with a shot on the line and another off the post plus a first-half denied penalty resulted in a frustrating afternoon for Falkirk and they failed to take advantage of Hamilton’s drubbing at Dumbarton.

Gary Holt’s men are still third but there is a scenario, of Hamilton failing next week and Dundee being defeated by two goals that would hand the Bairns the title with a win against Alloa.

They thought they had a win after Conor McGrandles broke the deadlock in the first half but a scrappy goal for Rowan Vine levelled for Morton.

Craig Sibbald hit the post in the second half and Scott Shepherd had a shot stopped inches from the line on the 90th minutes.

It was a frantic end and the visitors showed a high intensity from the start at Greenock. They pressured stand-in Morton keeper Nicolas Carcaux at every opportunity and caused panic at the back.

Several times the goalkeeper’s kicks were blocked by Bairns but nothing fell the Bairns way.

Passes from Morton in midfield to front were going nowhere either and the Bairns were in complete control.

At the back, David McCracken was cruising through the game, knocking every punted long-ball forward away from the box.

But there was no strike at the other end able to beat Carcaux as the final ball to some sweeping Bairns moves broke down at the final stage.

It could’ve been one of those days when stumbles, slices and miscues infront of goal cost the Bairns but they made sure they entered at half-time ahead.

Indeed, the league title switched three ways in the pace of four minutes as Hamilton trailed Dumbarton, then the Bairns scored, then Dundee took the lead against Alloa.

Falkirk’s goal was a deserved tap-in for Conor McGrandles who opened the scoring in the league season just across the water from Cappielow at Dumbarton.

Rory Loy tempted Carcaux off his line with a run behind the defence, and slid the ball across for the 18-year-old to tap the ball across the line infront of a jubilant away support.

They crowded the Dublin end of Cappielow and created a great atmosphere throughout the opening first half, singing, cheering and waving a life-size cut-out of Gary Holt procured from ASDA Grangemouth.

The mood among the players wasn’t quite so jubilant, but no less filled with desire.

There was frequent bickering between players as they each kept one another in check and on top of their game, and even Gary Holt, often a manager who allows the players freedom to play was persistently barking orders at the Bairns.

The manager had a point. At half-time they had dominated, but were only one ahead. It should have been many more. Rory Loy screwed a shot wide after 12 minutes and Carcaux promptly plucked a cross from McGrandles hitting the by-line out the air before Mark Beck could nod in.

Craig Sibbald stumbled when seven yards out in another move and with the goal gaping, Blair Alston side-footed a shot wide from the edge of the box.

But the goal came through McGrandles and shortly afterwards ref Craig Thompson was pilloried from the sidelines for not booking Blair Alston for a challenge from behind on Barrie McKay despite winning the ball.

It got worse for the Bairns as they were denied a penalty when McGrandles was body-checked by Darren Cole in the box.

Joe Chalmers flew forward from left-back in the final action of the first period but was halted by a good tackle from Stuart Findlay who conceded a corner but it came to nothing for the Bairns.

They re-emerged fired up after a half-time roasting from Gary Holt, and as it stood at 4 p.m. Hamilton had conceded the league lead and slipped to third with Falkirk a point off Dundee at the top.

That changed again not long inside the second half, and it wasn’t in the Bairns favour.

After Falkirk had come close through the returning Kieran Duffie and a daisy-cutter from his fellow full-back Joe Chalmers Morton equalised.

Barrie McKay got the better of Duffie on the wing and his low cross caused panic at the back for the Bairns. Stephen Kingsley and McGovern kept out David Robertson but the ball spun free and was tucked away by Rowan Vine.

The wind was taken out of the away fans sails and the home fans immediately told them they doubted their title credentials - they might be right but the Bairns have given this season a right good go after being, at one stage recently, nine points off the top and now on the verge of possibly winning the league.

Falkirk should really have got the winner n18 minutes from the end when Kieran Duffie got on the end of an excellent move started by Craig Sibbald but the full-back pulled the shot wide and into the side-netting.

Two even better chances followed for the Bairns but they just didn’t fall.

Craig Sibbald raced clear, one on one with Carcaux with 10 minutes to go, and did everything right, a little lift and spin on the ball with the outside of his boot beat the goalkeeper but it clipped the inside of the post and bounced out.

An even more incredible denial for the Bairns came with 15 seconds of regular time to go. Sibbald skipped around two men fed Rory Loy who miscontrolled but Scott Shepherd took the ball in and slid the ball towards goal. Carcaux made a half-hearted block but the ball still skidded towards goal, it bounced one, twice and trickled as the goalkeeper and Craig Taggart scrambled back and with the goal on the white paint it was halted, and so to was the Bairns title hope.

Dundee are all but champions and only have to avoid defeat to kick Falkirk’s title bid into touch, but the Bairns know it could come down to goal difference and goals scored depending on results elsewhere and that sets up a mouth-watering finale at home to Alloa next week.

Stenhousemuir also have it all the play for next week.

The Warriors could have taken advantage of Ayr losing 4-2 at Forfar, but Scott Booth’s side tumbled 2-1 at home to Airdrie.

One point separates the Ochlview outfit from Ayr above them.