Falkirk to face a familiar foe in play-off semi-final

Aaron Muirhead saw red in the last meeting between the sides. Picture Michael Gillen.
Aaron Muirhead saw red in the last meeting between the sides. Picture Michael Gillen.

Falkirk and Hibs will meet for the seventh and eighth times in just 13 months this week.

And with such familiarity, Aaron Muirhead isn’t surprised there’s “niggle” between the two sides vying for a place in the Premiership.

The comeback point meant a lot to Peter Houston and his team. Picture Michael Gillen.

The comeback point meant a lot to Peter Houston and his team. Picture Michael Gillen.

They’ve been closely matched, meeting in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup this year and jostling for the second spot in the Championship right until the final whistle on the last day of the league season.

The “niggle” has been verbal over the months too. Fraser Fyvie questioned whether Falkirk have ‘big-game players’. David McCracken reckoned someone should teach the midfielder about making comments like that about other teams.

Peter Houston laughed it off as “pantomime” last week, but it has been a prominent side-show to the Championship clashes since told the Easter Road management to “deal with it” after defeating them at Hampden with a cross into the box, and it’s continued to flow east and west to Alan Stubbs’ recent comments that “celebrations are for May”.

Muirhead didn’t get to partake in the post-match fist-pumping that bristled with the Easter Road boss, having been sent off earlier in the 2-2 draw last month.

Falkirk celebrated a point with more than 1000 fans at Easter Road last month. Picture Michael Gillen.

Falkirk celebrated a point with more than 1000 fans at Easter Road last month. Picture Michael Gillen.

And although he didn’t, his red card contributed to an epic climax when Falkirk, trailing 2-0 and minus a man in Muirhead, fought back in the closing stages for a point which proved vital in saving them two energy-sapping matches with Raith Rovers in the play-off quarter final.

Hibs punishment for the late concessions was the two ties to earn the right to face Falkirk yet again, this time in a two-legged play-off.

“You always have that wee bit of niggle, whether there’s been a bad tackle before or whatever. But it was always going to be there because of the Scottish Cup semi-final last season and then both going for second and now it’s the play-off semi-finals.

“Our big games have always come against Hibs, but we’ll just need to go about it the same way we would in any other game and, hopefully, come away with a positive result in the two games. They are a good side. They’ve got quality and depth in their squad. They have good impact players that can come off the bench no matter what team they start with.

“We don’t have as big a squad as Rangers or Hibs, but our starting team and the boys coming off the bench have proved they are more than a match for anyone.”

Muirhead was locked in the dressing room for the post-match celebrations which had a packed away end at Easter Road bouncing. More than 1,000 made the trip east and similar is expected tomorrow night before the Bairns bring them back to The Falkirk Stadium for the Friday night face off.

Around 1500 tickets remain for the home game, priced £15, £10 and £5 and are on sale from the club shop now.

Paul Watson, Tom Taiwo and Will Vaulks have all trained in the lead-up to the game, meaning the Bairns should have a fully-fit squad to select from, barring long-term absentees Graham Bowman, Peter Grant and Conor McGrandles.

Both semi-finals are live on BT Sport.