In a match dominated by the Bairns it was trialist Bob McHugh who grabbed the plaudits and gave Bairns boss Peter Houston food for thought after scoring twice in Falkirk’s 4-0 win over Athlone Town.
It was a comfortable win for Falkirk who dominated for large periods of the game which the hosts simply failed to impose themselves on. The mass change of personnel at half time was too much for a tiring Athlone side to cope with and throughout the second half some of the football played by the Bairns was a joy to watch.
Right from the off Falkirk went on the attack with Craig Sibbald driving a powerful effort towards goal which was punched clear by goalkeeper, Connor Gleeson. The Bairns continued to press their Irish counterparts and they took the lead thanks to a fine finish from Blair Alston. The midfielder drilled an effort in off the inside of Gleeson’s left hand post after good build up play involving Craig Sibbald.
Sam O’Connor had Athlone’s first attempt on goal as he dragged an effort wide of the target with twenty five minutes played. Centre-back Aidan Collins also came close for the home side with a strike from fully forty yards out.
With half time approaching and Falkirk continuing to look for a second goal Paul Heffernan sent a diving header from an in-swinging Blair Alston freekick wide of the target.
As was expected Peter Houston sent out an entirely different line-up for the second half. Bob McHugh paired up with Scott Shepherd to form a new look attack, while club captain, David McCracken resumed his normal position at the heart of the back four.
Bob McHugh will have done his chances of being offered a contract no harm after he played a vital part in three out of four of Falkirk’s goals.
Eight minutes into the second half he played the perfect low diagonal ball into the feet of Scott Shepherd who shot past Gleeson at the second attempt to make it 2-0.
It was a great move from the Bairns and one that also ncluded Thomas Grant who put in an impressive performance after returning from a loan spell with Arbroath.
With 30 minutes left on the clock the Bairns made it three- the flame-haired Shepherd raced clear down the right before squaring to Bob McHugh who expertly slotted past Athlone keeper Gleeson.
As the second half continued Athlone were looking weary and were struggling to cope with the Bairns’ passing play.
Bob McHugh doubled his tally for the night when he controlled a chipped ball into the box before rifling past Gleeson., doing his chance of a contract no harm witha double.
Speaking after the match Falkirk manager Peter Houston said: “It’s one of these things- we scored early in the first half and from there I think we became sloppy with our passing.”
Houston continued: “We made it hard for ourselves. I had a word with them at half time and I had a word with the boys who were going out to tell them to make sure they passed and moved as it kills teams like this.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s match against Drogheda United, Houston commented: “It’s a gradual build up. From Saturday onwards when we play Drogheda we’ll change it a bit. We’ll pick a stronger team and we’ll drip feed the subs on. We’ll not make eleven changes at the one time as we need to get the game time of the players up from 45 minutes to 60 or 70.”