FALKIRK lifted the Scottish Cup for the second time in their history – at the second time of asking!
Four days after Kilmarnock had punished a rare mistake by skipper John Prentice to snatch a dramatic 1-1 draw, the Bairns were back at Hampden on Wednesday, April 24, 1957 – and, in front of an 80,000 crowd, asked to finish the job.
Man of the match Tommy Murray gave them the perfect start, cutting in past two defenders with 25 minutes gone to fire in a cross which was met brilliantly by George Merchant who nodded home from seven yards.
Falkirk had chances to put the final tie beyond Killie but centre forward Curlett, who had equalised in the first match, came back to haunt them again with another leveller, this time just 10 minutes from time.
Manager Reggie Smith and trainer Ernie Godfrey then asked their heroes to dig deep in extra time – and they responded in style with the winner from Dougie Moran coming in the 100th minute of an epic.
The Falkirk Herald covered both matches and produced a four-page supplement to celebrate the victory. On the eve of another historic appearance at Hampden for the club, this is what they had to say back then.
Scottish Cup Final
April 20, 1957
UNLUCKY Falkirk, lucky Kilmarnock. Individually Falkirk were way ahead and the cup was theirs if they had taken their chances in the first half, but only a penalty from John Prentice separated the teams at half time.
The pattern of the game was dictated by the swirling wind. Falkirk had it at their backs in the first half and won a string of corners. One from Tommy Murray saw Merchant head over.
Murray was playing splendidly and great balls into the box nearly produced a goal for Merchant before Derek Grierson appealed for a penalty but the referee waved play on.
Eddie O'Hara headed a Grierson corner onto the crossbar and then headed straight into the arms of goalkeeper Brown. In reply, Kilmarnock's Harvey shot into the side netting and Wright shot high over Bert Slater's bar.
Wright then hit over and Harvey clashed with Ian Rae who needed treatment and gave the Ayrshire team breathing space before they survived the biggest escape of the match.
Prentice sent O'Hara away and his low pass to Merchant saw the forward race at top speed past Toner to face Brown. As the goalkeeper waited the shot flashed outside of his post.
The final needed a goal, and, against play, it nearly went to Kilmarnock after Burns won a corner which Slater failed to hold. The ball fell to Curlett but he snapped at the chance and sent it over.
The goal had to come and it did on 33 minutes. Moran and Grierson worked the ball into the area before finding Merchant.
The centre pivoted around Toner but in a desperate tackle the centre half put Merchant down and Prentice made no mistake with a penalty struck so powerfully Brown made no attempt to save it.
Due to injuries, the first half went beyond the 45 minutes and Kilmarnock used this time to snatch their equaliser against the run of play. However it was a splendid goal.
Alex Wright pulled down Black and Mackay's free-kick was watched by Prentice who must have thought it was going harmlessly past for a goal kick.
Instead of playing it, as he could easily have done, the left half failed to see Harvey head it back into the goal area for Curlett to volley past Slater.
In a hectic finish Murray was 'battered' by three desperate Killie defenders as he homed in and Slater denied Black and Mackay.
The tackles became 'ungentlemanly' and there was drama in the closing seconds when Andy Irvine was slow with a pass back to Slater and Curlett got 'a boot in' only to see the shot crash back off the post and cleared. Right on the whistle the bodies of Prentice and Slater combined to deny a shot from Burns.
After the replay, The Falkirk Herald reported:
"Falkirk won because they lasted the pace much better in extra time, credit to Reggie Smith's training regime. It was the type of game that made the knees knock, an all-action hard fought match.
"Killie took a lot out of themselves gaining a late second half equaliser through Curlett, which came from a corner Falkirk claimed should have been a goal kick.
"Falkirk were back on their heels for a spell but hung on to force extra time and a winner through Doug Moran in the 100th minute with a wonderful goal after the inside left raced past several defenders before cutting in and hitting the ball high into the net."