Hearts 2 Falkirk 3: Craig Sibbald strike shatters Jambos’ 20-match unbeaten run

Craig Sibbald's strike sails past Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander to secure victory for the Bairns at Tynecastle. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Craig Sibbald's strike sails past Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander to secure victory for the Bairns at Tynecastle. Picture: Ian Georgeson

A fine individual goal from Craig Sibbald handed Falkirk a deserved victory at Tynecastle and shattered Hearts’ long unbeaten run in the Championship.

In an extraordinary game of football that will live long in the memory of the several hundred Bairns fans who saw it, Peter Houston’s side recovered from losing a goal after just 90 seconds to comprehensively outplay the runaway league leaders.

The result confirms Falkirk are serious promotion contenders who look more than capable of winning the play-offs if, as still looks more than likely, Hearts secure the title.

The Edinburgh side had enjoyed the last unbeaten professional league record in U.K. football and few fans would have foreseen it crashing to an end in such dramatic circumstances.

It looked business as usual for those of a maroon persuasion when Genero Zeefuik made the perfect start to his Tynecastle debut when he fired the home side ahead with less than two minutes played. The pacey Osman Sow broke down the left, and his perfectly weighted angled pass from the byline found the on-rushing Dutchman who coolly drilled the ball past Jamie MacDonald.

Falkirk fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst as Hearts continued to press, but after weathering the storm the Bairns quickly carved out a series of chances. Peter Grant fired the ball over the bar despite being unmarked at the back post, and moments later Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander took a Rory Loy piledriver square in the face after the striker had been put clean through on goal.

It took a penalty to pull the away side level. McGhee fouled Loy just inside the box as the pair went for a bouncing ball and ref Don Robertson showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Bairns new boy Jon Baird duly made no mistake from 12 yards.

Peter Houston ordered his players to maintain their tempo in the second half and the impressive Mark Kerr, Blair Alston and Craig Sibbald refused to let the Hearts midfield settle and were soon dictating play.

The Bairns snatched the lead after 52 minutes with a superb strike from Loy. The frontman made up for his earlier miss by clearing one challenge and dashing along the Hearts 18-yard line into space before unleashing a beautiful left-footed curled shot into Alexander’s top left corner.

That strike galvanised Hearts and they poured forward in search of an equaliser. The home fans were screaming for a penalty on the hour mark when Grant appeared to upend Sow but the ref showed no interest.

Seconds later a Gomis cross from the right found the unmarked Nicholson, but his header was beaten away by a brilliant reaction save from MacDonald.

Hearts pulled level on 73 minutes when Keatings took advantage following good work in the box by Zeefuik.

It was frantic stuff and it looked likely there were more goals to come. To the away fans’ delight it was Falkirk who responded.

Gomis was robbed of the ball by Alston and Sibbald duly collected. He dodged one challenge on the edge of the box, dribbled into space and calmly swept the ball into the bottom right corner past the despairing Alexander.

This was an extraordinary team performance from Falkirk and they fully deserved their victory.

The Bairns will look to make it two wins on the bounce when they face Dumbarton at home next Saturday.

Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Wilson, Gomis (Holt 82) Walker, Nicholson, Buaben, Sow (Keatings 65), Zeefuik, McGhee, Eckersley.

Falkirk: MacDonald, Duffie, Vaulks, Taiwo (Smith 82), Alston, Sibbald, Kerr, Grant, Leahy, Loy (Bia Bi 89), Baird (Dick 85).

Attendance: 16,206