Sligo Rovers 1 Falkirk 2 : Irish eyes smile on Bairns

falkirk celebrate Nathan Austin's strike to open scoring in Sligo. Picture Michael Gillen (The Falkirk Herald)
falkirk celebrate Nathan Austin's strike to open scoring in Sligo. Picture Michael Gillen (The Falkirk Herald)

It was a long way to go for a win, but Falkirk will take it after a month of waiting.

The Bairns took the lead within ten minutes when Nathan Austin tapped in a cut-back from Rory Loy. It was as easy a finish as he’ll get this season after Loy had chased down Sligo centre-half Seamus Sharkey to create the opportunity.

Seamus Sharkey scored Sligo Rovers' equaliser. Picture Michael Gillen.

Seamus Sharkey scored Sligo Rovers' equaliser. Picture Michael Gillen.

The home side were almost immediately looking for a penalty though as forward Raffaele Creatro – a nuisance to the new-look Bairns backline of Conrad Balatoni and Jordan McGhee throughout the game – tangled with Aaron Muirhead in the box and both tumbled but ref Keith Kennedy was unmoved.

The goal did come from Sligo though, as Sharkey made up for his earlier dawdling at the back to smash a powerful header beyond Robbie Thomson. The Falkirk goalkeeper was reprimanded moments later by boss Peter Houston for not coming off his line to meet Regan Donelon’s corner.

Balatoni barged over Cretaro to pick up a booking for a preofessional foul on the half-way line on 27 minutes and the move gave the Bairns time to retreat and recover and launch an attack that brought the Bairns’’ second.

Aaron Muirhead pressed up the park and slid an excellent through ball down the middle into the path of James Craigen, and the midfielder smashed past Patton from the edge of the box.

James Craigen netted the winner in the first half. Picture Michael Gillen.

James Craigen netted the winner in the first half. Picture Michael Gillen.

It stayed that way until half-time with the Bairnsdefence blocking several Sligo strikes for corner kicks, but at the other end Alex Harris was unlucky to see a curling free-kick beaten away by Patton at his post after Austin had been fouled on the edge of the area by ex-Dunfermline man Rhys McCabe.

The Bairns had switched off fter their opening goal to allow Sligo back in but they were alert to the Irish side’s attacks immediately after the break. Balatoni marshalled Chris Kenny in the six-yard box and did enough to stop the forward converting Vinny Flaherty’s knock-down, and moments later they wanted a help from referee Keith Kennedy as Creatro went down under a Tom Taiwo challenge in the box, but the protests were waved away.

Cameron Blues had put in an excellent shift in the middle of the park and was joined by Mark Kerr on for Alex Harris in a second half substitution.

The wind picked up and caused problems for Falkirk’s backline but Robbie Thomson stood firm at the back. He grabbed a Chris Kenny effort before hodling a free-kick from Kyle Callan McFadden and the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup’s most successful club take a place in round three at the expense of one of its’ latest entrants.

Falkirk fans enjoyed their trip. Picture Michael Gillen.

Falkirk fans enjoyed their trip. Picture Michael Gillen.

Falkirk fans were in good voice. Picture Michael Gillen (The Falkirk Herald)

Falkirk fans were in good voice. Picture Michael Gillen (The Falkirk Herald)