Falkirk passed Morton’s test with straight A’s – and goals from Aaron Muirhead, Andy Nelson and Alex Jakubiak – Hartley’s own A-team.
And it was so good, and so comfortable they could have lit one of Hannibal’s own cigars so rarely did Jim Duffy’s side threaten.
The Bairns were good, they didn’t need to be against a meek Morton side but the goals and attacking in the first half was of a high standard.
It was a freezing wet afternoon – with horizontal rain reaching the back of the stand – and Morton were caught cold and remained frozen. They looked like they’d rather be anywhere else from as soon as the fourth minute when Muirhead slammed in the penalty opener.
It had been won by the dynamic run of Andy Nelson and the Sunderland forward had an outstanding afternoon. Chasing lost causes, hassling defenders and generally creating havoc for the hapless Ricki Lamie – this is why Paul Hartley brought him north. The issue, as Nelson admits for himself and the team broadly, is to maintain this standard of performance more regularly.
But the consistency is coming, particularly up front where he and Alex Jakubiak have formed an understanding with support from Louis Longridge and Craig Sibbald.
Paul Hartley pitched in another loanee, Ryan Blair, from the start but it was clear the Swansea midfielder hadn’t been part of previous formations when he made similar moves to Longridge or wasn’t picked out by his team-mates. He looked the one component out of place, perhaps unsurprising given the paucity of his minutes since returning to Falkirk and the fairly consistent selection process of the Bairns. It was however valuable with Tom Taiwo relegated to the bench.
The continuity of the Bairns team is beginning to be seen with flowing moves, players finding one another almost telepathically and a real united front. As soon as they came together to celebrate Muirhead’s opener there was a feeling this would be a united Falkirk’s day. It was.
It wasn’t as thrilling as the win over Dundee United but it was almost as impressive. While that was a vicious mauling of an opponent, this was a professional deconstruction of another promotion play-off hopeful by a Falkirk side who should be up with them, and but for the travails of the early part of the season, would be. They now have a squad capable though.
The second goal involved ‘the A-team’ and Longridge, and was a flowing counter-attack back to front which resulted in Nelson’s strike. The frontman was unlucky to see another domineering run result in a shot off the crossbar when it, and his general show, deserved at least a second.
Jakubiak did find the net though, seizing slack Morton play to take Sibbald’s header off Lamie and stroke in precisely from the edge of the box.
It was an excellent first half and a solid second followed, only sullied by a late header from Gary Harkins that the visitors barely deserved, but served as a reminder to the Bairns to keep the standards high for the just rewards.