Monday Verdict: All to play for in fourth round replay at Falkirk Stadium
Even before kick off at Gayfield this was perhaps the most intriguing, finely balanced match of the Scottish Cup fourth round.
Arbroath, last season’s League 1 champions, have had a more than respectable start to their Championship season.
Many had predicted the Red Lichties to spend their entire season in a relegation battle but, as Dick Campbell’s side have done for some time now, they continue to defy expectations.
They are by no means clear of the danger at the bottom of the table but at the time of writing have a seven point gap over bottom side Alloa Athletic and also sit above Partick Thistle and Queen of the South.
Falkirk, meanwhile, are where they should be in the league table with the only real surprise being that things in League 1 are quite so tight with Raith, Airdrie and even East Fife and Montrose in contention.
The Bairns also went in to the match on the back of a nine game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Combining all that and factoring in that the visitors were the full-time side in the tie and you are left with the type of match the discerning gambler wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.
There were then no surprises that the first half of the match was an evenly balanced contest with both sides creating chances without ever really testing either goalkeeper.
The two “star men” on the park were Declan McManus - fresh off of a hat-trick against Peterhead in the league, and Arbroath’s Bobby Linn who has six Championship goals and six assists so far this season.
McManus came close with the first real chance of the game on 15 minutes when he headed Michael Doyle’s cross agonisingly wide.
The back and forth nature of the first half was then fully demonstrated as Conor Sammon went down inside the penalty area, with referee Greig Aitken showing no interest, and the home side broke up the park getting the ball to Linn out on the left wing who showed some neat footwork to make space for a shot which deflected just past Robbie Mutch’s near post.
If the first half was an even contest though the second was one way traffic, in terms of chances created anyway.
The visitors took the game by the scruff of the neck with Lichties’ keeper Derek Gaston kept busy while Mutch was as good as a spectator.
McManus could have had another hat-trick but for a good block from Gaston and a free-kick going inches wide.
Substitute David McMillan should have won the tie late on but headed over a McManus cross from three yards in the dying minutes of the match.
On the balance of play in that second half Lee Miller and David McCrakcen will fancy their chances at the Falkirk Stadium in the replay on Tuesday, January 28.
Up for grabs? A fifth round home tie against Hearts!