Alan Hansen’s famous quote ‘You don’t win anything with kids’ might well have been replaced by ‘You never learn anything from friendlies’ at the Bairns post-match press conference following a stuttering 3-2 defeat to Conference Premier side Woking.
Played in front of a 700-odd crowd, which contained a contingent of around 100 hardy Falkirk supporters who had made the long journey to Kingsfield Stadium, it’s doubtful whether anything significant was learned from a game which was played in a 26 degree heat wave.
In fairness, Peter Houston was there to experiment and tinker with the line-up of his new charges and said pre-match that he wanted his players “to adjust and be comfortable with the way we intend to play”. That’s just what they attempted and tried to grips with the new system.
While the general shape of the team looked well organised, it still left Rory Loy ploughing a lone furrow up front. It’s no secret that Falkirk’s head coach is keen to sign another experienced striker and hopefully that will alleviate the problem.
Interestingly enough, the side that kicked off looked to be near enough his strongest selection with only regulars Kieran Duffie and Craig Sibbald posted missing with injuries.
Woking were no respecter of reputations as they tore into the Bairns from the start and looked to have scored the opener in 5 minutes when Scott Rendell sent a well-placed header past MacDonald only for the assistant to raise his flag for offside.
The alarm bells were ringing seven minutes later when Kieran Murtagh rocketed a 25-yarder inches wide of Jamie MacDonald’s right-hand post. However, the hosts were shocked when Falkirk took the lead against the run of play in the 18th minute. New signing Alex Cooper was tripped as he rode two tackles on the edge of the Woking box. Blair Alston stepped up to curl a lovely free-kick over the wall which escaped the clutches of the diving Aaron Howe to sneak into the net, low at his left-hand upright.
It was level within three minutes. John Goddard played in Kieran Murtagh who raced into the Bairns box, ignored the Falkirk defenders raised arms for offside and calmly pushed a shot wide of the outrushing MacDonald.
The gruelling heat was telling on the players as McGrandles lashed a powerful drive inches over the Woking crossbar before Referee Ryan Atkins sensibly allowed a ‘water break’ for the exhausted players.
Predictably the pace in the second-half dropped dramatically despite a plethora of home substitutions. Falkirk coped well with an early bombardment as they had in the first quarter of the game and won a penalty in 54 minutes. Conor McGrandles sidestepped a challenge in the penalty area before being taken high and late by defender Adam Newton who could have little complaint about the award. Rory Loy stepped up to ram the kick low past Howe.
Woking’s Rendell blocked a Jamie MacDonald goal kick on the hour mark and thumped a shot home before confused officials finally disallowed the effort when they realised he was still inside the penalty area when the kick was taken.
Undeterred, more pressure from Woking resulted in a handball decision against David McCracken a yard inside the box and Scott Rendell stepped up to coolly roll the ball wide of MacDonald with 66 minutes showing on the watch.
Perhaps the rigours of the training at Aldershot were beginning to take their toll for a tired-looking Falkirk side conceded again with twenty minutes remaining. The lively Reece Beckles cracked a shot off the crossbar only for the lurking Abdellah Hicham to power home the rebound from six yards.