Monday Verdict: Falkirk focus on maintaining traditions but there’s nothing nostalgic in 2018

Sports Editor David Oliver looks back on the first game, and first win of 2019 for Falkirk.

Welcome in the new year. Welcome in the new players. Welcome in the new points.

Ayr v Falkirk. Picture Michael Gillen.

Ayr v Falkirk. Picture Michael Gillen.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED: Michael Gillen’s pitchside photography

At a time of year for tradition and nostalgia, there won’t be many looking back on 2018 with any great fondness from a footballing perspective, but the new batch set the new year off on the right foot, the traditional foot, when Falkirk first-footed Ayr.

You might not know it but it’s tradition that Falkirk don’t lose the first fixture of the calendar. Last year, one of the most miserable for the club in recent memory, began with a loss to Dunfermline.

Only one other year this millenium – 2004 – has kicked off without a points return. Of the 16 remaining, only four have been draws. The remainder were wins. Add this one to the list too, at 13/2 with the bookmakers no less.

Mark Waddington. Picture Michael Gillen.

Mark Waddington. Picture Michael Gillen.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Matchday Blog

There’s much to learn for this new side. Two were making their first ever senior appearances, another only his sixth senior game. Zak Rudden, the Bairns goalscorer, had only played four times before his move.

But he’s adapted to the senior game and judging by his joy at firing the winner in on 56 minutes, he gets what it means to be a Falkirk player. And what it meant to the fans.

FANS VIEWS: Social media reaction to the Bairns win

Ciaran McKenna. Picture Michael Gillen.

Ciaran McKenna. Picture Michael Gillen.

He wheeled away along the away end terrace before knee-sliding to more of the visitors who’d chased him along the by-line in jubilation.

It meant a lot. It meant three points, eventually. It meant a new year, and new group, starting off on the right foot against this season’s SPFL Championship shock troops.

MATCH REPORT: Ayr United 0 Falkirk 1

Every one of Ray McKinnon’s new signings handed a start – Paul Dixon, Ciaran McKenna, Ian McShane, Mark Waddington and Ross MacLean – made a difference and a contribution to this win which lifts the Bairns off the foot of the table.

Zak Rudden celebrates. Picture Michael Gillen.

Zak Rudden celebrates. Picture Michael Gillen.

Omens then, for the new group, and the new year, are much more positive than they were a year ago.

And luck might just be on the Bairns side too.

A late goalmouth scramble really should have resulted in an equaliser for Ayr, but for the will of the Bairns defence, and a David Mitchell sliding tackle to rob Craig Moore, they were denied.

IN QUOTES: Neil Scally and Ray McKinnon reflect

In a match without incident, it was relatively easy for referee John Beaton to oversee amid all issues affecting him off the field.

After a battling first half the match was decided by a mistake, a second half spill from Ayr goalkeeper Ross Doohan after a long-range strike by Ross MacLean, was tapped in by Rudden on 56 minutes.

Joe McKee tangles with Michael Moffat. Picture Michael Gillen.

Joe McKee tangles with Michael Moffat. Picture Michael Gillen.

Ayr attacked and eventually laid siege to the Bairns after that as the rookie Bairns’ legs tired and several went down with cramp. But they battled on.

That fighting spirit will be needed. Especially next week on a trip to Partick Thistle who are also fighting for their lives and fortified by new signings.

There have been false dawns before. This win came 364 days since a 6-1 demolition of Dundee United, but taking this one in isolation, new year omens look good.

READ MORE: Falkirk 6 Dundee Utd 1 - January 6, 2018

New Bairn Ian McShane. Picture Michael Gillen.

New Bairn Ian McShane. Picture Michael Gillen.

Ross MacLean cramped up. Picture Michael Gillen.

Ross MacLean cramped up. Picture Michael Gillen.

Pictures: Michael Gillen.

Pictures: Michael Gillen.