Raith 2 Falkirk 2: McHugh to the rescue again

Bob McHugh scored his third late goal in as many games

Bob McHugh scored his third late goal in as many games

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A late diving header from Bob McHugh, who else, kept Falkirk’s pursuit of a week off on track.

The Bairns were battling with fellow play-off contenders Raith Rovers and had second spot in sight after Hibs’ scoreless draw earlier in the day with Morton.

Craig Barr and Joel Thomas scramble the ball in for the opener. Picture Michael Gillen.

Craig Barr and Joel Thomas scramble the ball in for the opener. Picture Michael Gillen.

But the afternoon’s late kick-off on BBC Alba did not run to Peter Houston’s script as the Bairns twice fell behind.

However Bob McHugh’s diving header two minutes from time to meet Scott Shepherd’s cross maintained the Bairns three point advantage over Alan Stubbs’ side, and consigned Rovers to a guaranteed fourth placed finish.

It was a dreadful start for the Bairns despite applying a little pressure through corners and Danny Rogers making a great two-handed save to claw a Craig Barr header off the line. But he couldn’t get the ball clear and it was knocked in by Joel Thomas in a goalmouth stramash.

Thomas though, was immediately withdrawn with what looked like a hamstring strain, replaced by Ryan Hardie. His replacement did not ease up on the Bairns and Rovers dominated the first half possession with Falkirk’s patchwork defensive line struggling.

Craig Sibbald scored the Bairns' first. Picture by Michael Gillen.

Craig Sibbald scored the Bairns' first. Picture by Michael Gillen.

Aaron Muirhead was suspended and Blair Alston deputised at right-back while Will Vaulks filled in alongside David McCracken and Luke Leahy.

Uncertainty was the order of the day and the Bairns should have been punished by Hardie when he was gifted a backpass by David McCracken but Vaulks’ rush across goal blocked and the sub lobbed the rebound over.

Falkirk did have one decent chance of a poor first half, Craig Sibbald swinging a cross to Lee Miller at the backpost and eluding Cuthbert but Lee Miller’s lunge to knock in the open goal couldn’t bring the scores level, the ball landing under the experienced striker and trickling out for a goal kick.

As has so often happened this season, Peter Houston’s half-time intervention made all the difference to the Bairns.

Rejuvenated, they levelled quickly through Craig Sibbald on 55 minutes, seconds after Houston replaced John Baird and Myles Hippolyte with Bob McHugh and Scott Shepherd.

The Bairns continued to look refreshed in the second half and really should have been ahead but again Miller spurned a great chance. He lashed the ball on the half volley straight at Cuthbert from little over 12 yards out. It seemed a certain goal, the Bairns bench leapt up with fists clenched, but the keeper held on.

Encouraged by his side’s attacks, Peter Hosuton added Kevin O’hara for Tom Taiwo, but it had the opposite effect of his previous substitutions. Raith charged up the park and a long ball from Thomson caught make-shift right-back Alston out and his mistake allowed Ryan hardie to roll in Rovers’ second.

It looked ominous, like Falkirk had conceded ground to Hibs in the race for second. But the Bairns had Bob McHugh.