Falkirk 2 Dunfermline 1: Bairns secure derby win

Celebrations for Falkirk after Myles Hippolyte netted what proved to be the winner against  Dunfermline
Celebrations for Falkirk after Myles Hippolyte netted what proved to be the winner against Dunfermline

All week long, manager Peter Houston made sure his players knew just what this derby means to the Falkirk supporters.

He told them: ”It’s a huge thing for Falkirk fans, and one side rarely dominates the whole of these matches.”

The manager was delighted with the result, but conceded that his side could have killed the game off, and not given their supporters such a nervous finale.

It was hard to believe that it was August 2014 since the sides had met in competitive action, and there was a good turnout from both sets of supporters.

There was an impeccably-observed minute’s applause for Jimmy McIntosh and Eddie O’Hara, who had both sadly passed away since the last home match, leaving only Tommy Murray and Dougie Moran as the last surviving members of that amazing 1957 cup-winning team.

After an even start, with plenty of good open attacking play from both sides, Falkirk had a real chance but Tom Taiwo and John Baird got in each others’ way as the latter was about to try an acrobatic overhead kick.

Baird was proving to be a real handful for the Pars defenders and Hippolyte looked capable of causing problems too. Both sides were clearly in attacking mode, and Baird was only inches away from connecting with a left wing cross from Luke Leahy.

At the away end, Farid El Alagui headed straight at Danny Rogers from a left wing cross, when home supporters had feared the worst. Hippolyte, who was visibly growing in confidence, tried an ambitious overhead scissors-kick at the far post which troubled Sean Murdoch, as Falkirk started to look more menacing.

Lewis Kidd was booked for a foul on Kallum Higginbotham, which was a bit harsh considering he was being pulled back by El Alagui seconds earlier.

Danny Rogers did well to smother an effort from Andy Geggan at his right hand post as Dunfermline threatened down both flanks.

Higgingbotham had a great chance from a long ball in from the right, but Luke Leahy cleared off the line and the ball was scrambled clear.

Falkirk opened the scoring in 27 minutes when Craig Sibbald scored a great goal, chasing a looping pass from Baird and lobbing Murdoch despite being clipped in the process of shooting.

Baird set up a great chance for Mark Kerr, who seemed to stumble as he shot, and his effort should have produced a second goal. Bob McHugh fired an effort straight at Murdoch as the Falkirk chances kept on coming.

Seasoned Bairns observers felt that a second goal would be needed to win the match, as the visitors continued to threaten in isolated breakaways.

Sibbald almost snatched that vital second goal, with a shot on the turn which wasn’t far away. After a shaky start, Falkirk had produced the better chances, but at half-time only had the one goal to show for their efforts.

Dunfermline started the second half in lively fashion and El Alagui almost reached a left wing cross from Higginbotham.

Leahy threaded a great ball across the box but there were no takers as Falkirk gradually got back into gear.

It came as no surprise when the impressive Hippolyte twisted and turned, beating three men, before firing low past Murdoch in 53 minutes for a vital second goal.

The goal had visibly shaken the visitors and Falkirk started to find gaps down both flanks. A long rage effort from David Hopkirk showed that the game was far from over, while McHugh gave notice that Falkirk were not content to sit on their lead.

Manager Houston was urging his side to lift their game, sensing that a wider margin might be needed. Dunfermline were coming more into the game and Rogers did well to rush from his goal to smother an effort from Clark.

Sibbald forced Murdoch to punch away a thumping shot from all of 30 yards, before McHugh was only inches away from connecting with a Baird cross.

Baird himself almost added a third with a chip shot which ended up just wide of Murdoch’s right hand post. Kidd played Taiwo in, and his cross reached McHugh, but Murdoch saved off his legs.

Dunfermline pulled one back with an amazing slice of fortune on the 80th minute. A harmless looking shot rebounded off a Falkirk defender right into the path of El Alagui who stroked the ball home into an unguarded net.

Kidd pulled off a vital, last-ditch tackle on Clark, but injured himself in the process. He was substituted by Paul Watson and looked to be in some distress, as he had to be stretchered off.

From looking to be home and dry, Falkirk were now in a dogfight and Clark’s chipped effort reminded them that the game was not yet over.

There were a few nerves starting to jangle in the home stands. Falkirk were being pinned back and Geggan might have snatched a point with a fierce volley in the closing seconds. Baird almost got a third with a great volley from the edge of the box which Murdoch punched away.

There were no weaknesses in this Falkirk team and the two centre backs were rock solid. Baird worked like a Trojan, chasing, harrying and forcing errors. Kerr and Sibbald provided all the drive in midfield and Hippolyte deserved his Man of the Match award.

Falkirk: Rogers, Kidd (Watson 82), Gasparotto, McCracken, Leahy (Rankin 86), Taiwo (Shepherd 86), Kerr, Sibbald, Hippolyte, McHugh, Baird.

Subs. Miller, Gallacher, Blues, Mehmet (GK).