Captain fantastic Will Vaulks gave Falkirk a vital three points and severely dented Raith Rovers’ play-off hopes.
The captain bundled in Blair Alston’s second half free kick for three vital points to keep maintain the new-look Bairns’ place in the play-off positions.
It was a tough tackling afternoon with Raith also scrapping for an outside shot at extending their season, but it was Falkirk who dominated, and then prevailed. The win closes the gap on Hibs, who lost at home to Queen of the South to just three points.
They began with Aaron Muirhead at right back and Vaulks in at centre-half and captain to cover David McCracken’s suspension. Taylor Morgan and Alex Cooper were also dropped to the bench after ineffective midweek outings against Cowdenbeath.
The changes though made the Bairns seem particularly narrow for the opening 15 minutes in a fairly mundane opening half, but it all kicked off just before halftime.
Without Kieran Duffie marauding down the right wing the games was congested through the middle, but the Bairns made their chances nonetheless.
John Baird forced a good save from his ex-teammate after 11 minutes as David McGurn parried a powerful drive from the edge of the box.
Mark Stewart found himself clean through on 18 minutes after a cutting ball through from Liam Fox, but the shot was tame and Jamie MacDonald saved low to his right.
The Bairns goalie had another scare and save to make in the second half but by that stage the game had swung in Falkirk’s favour.
After generally dominating play but failing to make the final touch to score the Bairns’ case was helped when Liam Fox was sent off for a horrible challenge on Luke Leahy. The pair had slid in for a 50-50 ball and while Leahy cleared, Fox planted his studs into the Englishman’s leg in a challenge that had the whole main stand wincing and the nearby Falkirk dugout furious. Leahy though was able to continue and the extra man counted in the second half, though not before Falkirk were given a fright.
Shortly after the restart Mark Stewart spun Peter Grant and set up Ryan Conroy for a strike that Jamie MacDonald did well to block, the rebound fell to Martin Scott who rammed it against the crossbar. Falkirk defenders stood stunned and Raith looked like lining up to shoot but the Bairns were given a let-off when Leahy poked the ball clear.
En Falkirk stepped up a gear. Alex cooper was sent on for Tom Taiwo in an attacking switch and Falkirk eventually took the lead.
John Baird spurned a hat-trick of chances but captain for the day Will Vaulks led by example and knocked in Blair Alston’s free kick just after the hour.
It calmed Falkirk’s nerves with QoS also leading at Easter Road.
The Bairns saw the remainder out, though Craig Sibbald almost doubled the lead with a trundling shot that beat David McGurn but just clipped the outside of the post with six minutes to go.