Falkirk got their League Cup campaign back on track with a comfortable 3-0 home victory over Elgin City on Tuesday night.
Goals from Will Vaulks, Lee Miller and substitute Bob McHugh delighted manager Peter Houston after their defeat to Stirling Albion the previous weekend.
Houston made five changes from that defeat, bringing in Vaulks, Deniz Mehmet, Aaron Muirhead, Nathan Austin and Lee Miller for McHugh, Danny Rogers, Lewis Kidd, Myles Hippolte and John Baird.
The mid-July evening sun, along with the lowly 1278 spectators, gave this tie an atmosphere similar to that of a pre-season friendly.
When Falkirk began to take control, most of their play focused down the left side. Luke Leahy made several surging runs to link expertly with Craig Sibbald and the duo was joined by Vaulks and Austin, who drifted wide from central positions.
Much speculation surrounds the future of Vaulks, with English Championship clubs reportedly interested, and he began to show why when he swept a pin-point cross-field pass to pick out Leahy before firing just over with a trademark effort minutes later.
By this point, Elgin had been hemmed in their own half for a sustained period and when they did venture out, they rarely threatened. It was Jamie Reid, signed in the close season from Arbroath, who came closest when he shot over the bar from long range.
Austin was then denied by the feet of goalkeeper Stewart Black after a clever through ball from Leahy, although it wasn’t much longer until the Bairns were ahead.
With 28 minutes on the clock, Vaulks’ effort from distance was blocked and half-cleared before a scramble ensued around the six-yard area. The Englishman continued into the box and tapped in from a few yards when the ball broke in his direction.
The home crowd rose to their feet in adulation as Vaulks pulled out his customary celebration, though many must have wondered if it is the last time they will see his post-goal acrobatics.
Less than 10 minutes later, the home side doubled their advantage when Miller leapt to glance in a superb in-swinging delivery from summer recruit James Craigen. The former Raith Rovers winger exchanged passes with Sibbald during a short corner before whipping the ball into the area, although Black in the Elgin goal should have done better after getting his palm to it.
Not long after the restart, Sibbald collected a pass from Craigen outside the area before trying his luck but his curling effort rebounded back into play after crashing off the bar.
Austin followed up by missing a great chance to add to Falkirk’s lead when he fired into the side netting during a one-on-one, then it was Vaulks’s turn to strike the bar with yet another long-range effort.
Leahy continued to break forward and could have had a strike himself, had he not taken a poor touch after a neat one-two with Sibbald.
Just after the hour, both sides made a double substitution, with Houston sending on Baird and McHugh in place of Miller and Austin.
Elgin’s changes saw them press forward more but this allowed the home side to hit them on the counter. Baird drifted to the right to collect the ball from Craigen and deliver a dangerous near-post cross that Mark Kerr should have converted.
With the match entering its final stages, Mehmet finally had something significant to do when he tipped over substitute Craig Gunn’s strike.
However, the victory was capped in the dying minutes when McHugh, who has built a reputation for scoring late goals, raced on to Baird’s through ball to slot past the ‘keeper.