Falkirk 1 Hibs 2: Late blast robs point from improved Bairns

Craig Sibbald forced in the opener against Hibs. Pic Michael Gillen
Craig Sibbald forced in the opener against Hibs. Pic Michael Gillen

Falkirk lost out to a late Kris Commons free-kick after a battling and much-improved performance from the Bairns.

The on-loan emergency midfielder blasted the set-piece high into the net from the edge of the box with just minutes to spare and swung the full allocation of points to Neil Lennon’s Easter Road side.

Craig Sibbald celebrates with Peter Grant. Pic by Michael Gillen

Craig Sibbald celebrates with Peter Grant. Pic by Michael Gillen

Falkirk had tailed off after a big effort – much improved performance on recent showings. They had been tumultuous for the majority of the game, battling through knocks and injuries to keep the visitors at bay.

The Bairns took the lead through Craig Sibbald – fast becoming the Bairn with a hoodoo over Hibs given his scoring frequency against them – scrambling in from close range, but Jason Cummings made an immediate response and the sides battled out a tough and even match until Commons swung it.

Hibs’ three-pronged attack – Grant Holt, Commons and Cummings – were the biggest test of quality for Falkirk’s back-line, and the Bairns stood up well to the challenge.

The first big threat came 14 minutes in when Mark Kerr ceded possession to Jason Cummings. He fed wide to Andrew Shinnie and in turn the ball moved to Lewis Stevenson. His advance into the box coaxed Danny Rogers off his line and the square pass to Commons left an unguarded net but the on-loan emergency midfielder diverted over with just Luca Gasparotto on the line.

The home support gave an ironic cheer, but they released a legitimate one after the next Falkirk foray up field.

A lovely low cross from Muirhead fell to Scott Shepherd at the front post and the flame-haired youngster looked certain to make up for his miss at Dumbarton two weeks ago. This time he did everything right, but it agonisingly hit the post. Craig Sibbald was in support though and from three yards blasted at goal only for the grounded Laidlaw to block. The ball spun in the air, Sibbald jumped to head, missed it but held off his man to steer the ball in with his back to goal for the opener.

It lasted around 120 seconds as Hibs immediately equalised through Cummings who raced in on Rogers goal with the Bairns defence static and claiming offside.

The goal response seemed to release a valve with the Bairns and the pressure they had placed on Hibs eased significantly, and it became a more even contest, fiercely fought. When Falkirk got at Hibs they looked more than a match for their visitors but when the pressure eased Hibs took full advantage.

But by the interval the Bairnswere limping in. Peter Grant came off second-best in a horrible - but fair collision in midfield with Scott Martin which had physio Ross Grady on the edge of the technical area bellowing at the defender who punched the ground and held his knee before standing up and carrying on. Tom Taiwo would later require treatment as the Bairnsput themselves into every tackle.

Craig Sibbald was buzzing all over the middle of the park and harrying the Hibees until the break and beyond it, but the Bairns had good fortune in the early exchanges of the second half to remain level.

Twice Cummings lured Rogersfrom his line, once only being denied by Aaron Muirhead’s recovery to defend the by-line, and again when Commons headed at the side-netting.

The Bairns received an even bigger relief when an almighty scramble didn’t put the visitors ahead. Cummings, Holt and Commons all had chanced but saves from Danny Rogers, blocks from Gasparotto

and Taiwo and Grant – who caused the imbalance by charging out to the left-wing - kept it out.

Falkirk’s best attempt was a cutback from Shepherd, released by Muirhead down the right, which fell to Sibbald on the edge of the box but he couldn’t get the ball under control and Dylan McGeouch bundled the ball clear.

Peter Houston pitched in last season’s hammer of the Hibees Bob McHugh and ex-Hearts forward Lee Miller, but neither got the reception that greeted Hibs’ change when Cummings made way for Martin Boyle which really upset the 1984-strong away support.

They would have been even angrier had Bob McHugh turned in a quick burst after the Bairns sub got the better of Paul Hanlon at the back but shot across goal.

With Dundee United losing to Dumbarton both sides at Westfield had interest in seeking out the winner, and it came with three minutes to play as Commons thundered a free-kick just outside the box high past Rogers.