Falkirk 3 Ross County 2: Bairns relegated to League One

Harry Burgoyne came to the rescue in the first half.  Picture Michael Gillen.
Harry Burgoyne came to the rescue in the first half. Picture Michael Gillen.

Falkirk saw off league champions Ross County but it was all academic as Alloa took the point they needed to send the Bairns down.

A pulsating second-half comeback - amid supporters' protests in the stands - saw the Bairns go down fighting, but the damage was already done at Somerset Park.

Zak Rudden was again Falkirk's goalscorer.  Picture Michael Gillen.

Zak Rudden was again Falkirk's goalscorer. Picture Michael Gillen.

Captain Jordan McGhee scored the winner after the Bairns had relinquished a first half lead gained through player of the year Zak Rudden, but County fought back through Ross Stewart and Iain Vigurs.

Rookie defender Ciaran McKenna headed the equaliser before McGhee's winner but it was results elsewhere which did for the Bairns who ended up going down on goal difference behind Queen of the South.

Fans, who packed out the Falkirk Stadium, stayed behind to protest against the leadership of the club but had roared the team on throughout the 90 minutes.

The Bairns should have gone ahead after just nine minutes, roared on by a fever-pitch south stand.

Phones were frantically being searched for score updates all afternoon. Picture Michael Gillen.

Phones were frantically being searched for score updates all afternoon. Picture Michael Gillen.

Ross MacLean, playing in the hole behind the on-loan front pairing of Rudden and Jarvis crossed for the Luton man to head and the bouncing ball hit Scott Fox's upright just out of Rudden's reach.

Indeed the goalkeeper had very little to do before being withdrawn after 20 minutes and replaced by rookie Ross Munro for his league debut, the ex-Celtic goalkeeper needing three minutes of treatm,ent after Zak Rudden's aerial challenge.

The delay took the sting out of the game and the urgency out of the atmosphere. Falkirk's fans had turned out en masse yet again, with one final push needed to extejnd their league status into the play-offs for at least another week.

AS IT HAPPENED: Matchday Live

The Bairns were well backed - again.  Picture Michael Gillen.

The Bairns were well backed - again. Picture Michael Gillen.

And they gave themselves a fighting chance on 27 minutes with the lead. Who else, but Zak Rudden to save the Bairns. He's the reason they haven't sunk already and with half an hour played they were level on points with Queen of the South, but trailing the Doonhamers by seven goals.

County were forced into a second change jsut after the goal with Lewis Spence replaced by ex-Stenhousemuir man Harry Paton.

He forced Harry Burgoyne into a great save on 35 minues, but by then it was all academic as Alloa had taken the lead at Ayr - a message conveyed to the pitch by the fancy-dressed entoruage in the away support.

But then the Bairns roared, though Aaron Jarvis hadn't quite reached the penalty box yet. Ayr had equalised and the message to the pitch was clear.

It stayed that way until half-time and though Falkirk were still bottom and Alloa free from any relegation woes, the delay for Scott Fox's injury put the match in Ayr four minutes ahead of the Westfield action.

After the restart Falkirk had an early chance through Rudden but the flashpoint came on the 52 minutes when Ciaran McKenna was floored by Brian Graham. The pair had collided and wrestled already as County probed forward and the ex-Shire striker swung a flailing arm at the rookie defender. But their next tussle was more serious but out of sight for ref Steven McLean who only spoke to the pair on the back of Harry Burgoyne's fury.

PLAYER PROFILE: Zak Rudden

Graham deserved to walk, especially in a game of such magnitude for Falkirk where any goal against - or assist could send them directly down to the third tier for the first time since 1980.

And that's exactly what happened as the towering forward chipped in Declan McManus' pass for Ross Stewart to head in the equaliser on 58 minutes. It had been coming. And as it stood, Falkirk were going.

Tommy Robson hit a trundling shot that was well-gathered by Munro and McGhee volleyed just wide as Falkirk upped the ante. Ray McKinnon pitched in Shayne Lavery and Mark Waddington for Jarvis and MacLean, who had run themselves into the ground.

But then Graham - again laid on Iain Vigurs to drive through a cluster of players and give County a deserved lead.

Immediately the protests began in the south stand of The Falkirk Stadium. A banner appeared calling for change in the directors. And as the noise rose in protest, the Bairns pressed forward and levelled two minutes later. Cieran McKenna rose highest and nodded the Bairns level and turned the jeers into cheers.

The banner remained out and looked like a lucky charm, because captain Jordan McGhee stepped up, jinked into the box and tucked the ball beyond County's rookie goalkeeper to give the Bairns a fighting chance.

But as the protests continued, time ticked on at Somerset Park, Ayr where Alloa had the point they needed to send the Bairns to League One.