Falkirk bow out despite spirited display

Jay Fulton equalises for Falkirk
Jay Fulton equalises for Falkirk

Feisty Falkirk were beaten, but far from out-classed by SPL leaders Celtic at Hampden in the semi-final of the Communities League Cup.

Jay Fulton was drafted into the starting line-up at the expense of Blair Alston, and he scored to send the Bairns into half-time 1-1.

It had been a terrific first half from Falkirk with Mark Millar controlling the game amongst a talented midfield area alongside Celtic's Scott Brown and the imposing frame of Victor Wanyama.

Celtic opened the scoring in contentious circumstances and the penalty from Scott Brown - given after Darren Dods wrestled Thomas Rogne waiting for a first-half corner - could have severe impact on Falkirk's season. It was a contentious call from referee Euan Norris, and led to Steven Pressley approaching the ref on the field at half-time and being sent to the stand. Further sanction could now await the Bairns manager who was forced to relay messages via Stevie Crawford to Neil McFarlane on the touchline.

But even before the penalty Celtic had the ball in the net when Gary Hooper stabbed in from close range after a terrific save by Michael McGovern pushed a Scott Brown shot onto the post.

The penalty calmed Celtic, and deflated Falkirk - but only temporarily. They composed themselves and resorted to their natural passing game and it paid off.

Six minutes before the break Kallum Higginbotham slipped Jay Fulton through on goal and the youngster rolled the ball into the net to level.

After the break - with Pressley in the stands and the scores level, Celtic resorted to frantically seeking the advantage again.

Thomas Rogne stabbed the ball off the bar and in the following melee Murray Wallace unintentionally, but certainly, blocked Victor Wanyama's shot with his hand - but ref Norris waved play on.

The ball broke out of the box and Farid El Alagui was penalised, and Anthony Stokes swept the freekick back into the box, and into the net, firing beyond McGovern's reach.

Goalscorer Fulton coukld have had another for Falkirk when Higinbotham picked him out from a cross but shot into the ground.

Falkirk hung on to their principles and had numerous openings in the second half but couldn't take advantage.

As they moved to go 4-4-2 with Jordan White coming on as a late sub, Celtic killed the game when ex-Bairn Stokes knocked in Hooper's low cross in the closing stages and took the wind and momentum out of the tireless Falkirk players.

Even in defeat their efforts were rewarded with Kallum Higginbotham named man of the match.

The Bairns now face another cup game on Saturday at Ayr - and already they're eyeing a return to Hampden in the William Hill Scottish Cup, but after such a star show on the grand stage and infront of a global live television audience, Tuesday's transfer window could be busy for Steven Pressley before he reaches Somerset Park.