Away with no danger

RAITH ROVERS 0 FALKIRK 2 McBreen 45, Duffy 58 Att: 3050

A SEVENTH away win in a row lifted Falkirk back to the top of the first division table and helped manager John Hughes learn a thing or two.

Raith Rovers may be the whipping boys of the league, but they proved a lot stuffier opposition than earlier on in the season.

With three key men missing from the settled team that has taken Falkirk so far, so early in this campaign, Hughes could be forgiven for being nervous.

He needn't have worried.

Kevin James missed out with a back injury and Andy Lawrie took his place at left centre half. Scott MacKenzie filled Lawrie's right back role with Bell's Cup goal hero Neil Scally earning a midfield start.

Andy Thomson and Davie Nicholls were the other absentees and here the manager proved bold in his choice of replacements.

Strikers Pedro Moutinho and Daniel McBreen joined Darryl Duffy in a three-pronged attack and they repaid Hughes' faith at the sharp end.

Moutinho, he of the white boots and fancy feet, is fast becoming a cult favourite among the Falkirk faithful.

He was behind much of the Bairns' incisiveness on a day when they moved away from the patient passing approach that has characterised them this season.

It was Moutinho who set up McBreen for the opener on the brink of half-time, then won the penalty kick which settled any nerves.

Opposition managers have been getting wise to Falkirk's measured approach and reliance on Russell Latapy's genius behind two strikers.

At Stark's Park, Falkirk's troops were encouraged to ping balls forward for the strikers to chase and forage.

The only times they looked uncomfortable was when over-elaboration brought pressure on themselves.

Duffy could have heralded a cricket score if his third minute curler had gone in off the post rather than rolling across the face of goal to safety.

Two minutes later John O'Neil's pass saw Duffy race into the box from the left, but he pushed a right foot shot miles wide when a left footer looked the better option.

Moutinho was next to threaten, playing a one-two with McBreen but firing his shot narrowly wide.

Then Pedro's cross fell to O'Neil in space at the back post, but he snatched his effort harmlessly past the post.

Rovers had oodles of corner kicks in the first half, but only one real chance.

Moussa Ouattara's cross was met by the flying head of Lloyd Young, but the ball flew just the wrong side of the post.

O'Neil tested home keeper Pounoussamy from 30 yards as Falkirk squeezed, then Pedro picked apart the home defence.

He flopped a great cross on to McBreen's head, but from four yards he managed to hit the keeper. The Aussie was eternally grateful that he got the chance to make amends 30 seconds later.

This time Latapy and Moutinho combined for the latter to give McBreen the chance to slot home from eight yards. The half-time whistle came immediately.

Darryl Duffy may have needed to polish his shooting boots during the interval, but his time wasn't long in coming.

He could have done better than shoot straight at Pounoussamy shortly after the restart, but when a penalty kick was awarded he wasn't slow to step up.

Moutinho was again the creator, picking up a loose clearance, beating one man and tempting Anthony Bartholome into a rash tackle in the box. Duffy finished in style on his return to spot-kick duty.

Moutinho should have added a third 15 minutes from time. Scally's quick throw-in allowed Duffy to pick out Pedro's run into the penalty box, but he skied his effort over the bar. Five minutes later the Portuguese's fierce shot was beaten away by Pounoussamy, but already Moutinho looks more provider than goalscorer.

Raith had spells of pressure during the second half, but never looked like staging a recovery.

Russell Latapy made more tackles in this game than during his entire Falkirk career, while McBreen tracked back manfully. He looked a welcome addition to the striking roster, providing a more straightforward and physical option than his fellow forwards.

Andy Lawrie was excellent in his central defensive role, while Scott MacKenzie was dependable as ever at right back.