Youngsters lead charge with first of five trophies

falkirk’s penalty prowess continued on Tuesday night as spot-kicks settled the last ever Stirlingshire Cup final.

The youngsters saw off Dumbarton after a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes and Jay Fulton stroked home the winning sixth penalty to etch the Bairns’ name on the trophy.

It capped an impressive performance from the Bairns’ young team, comprising of youngsters from the Academy and supplemented by first-team regulars Dale and Jay Fulton.

Their spot-kicks sandwiched four others as the Bairns young team won their second shoot-out in a week, and the youngsters ensured the dream of a ‘quintuple’ lives on.

The Bairns first-team are now favourites for the Division One title with bookmakers, are one game away from the League Cup final and have the Ramsdens Cup final awaiting them in April - and already have some silverware in the cabinet thanks to the Academy squad.

These young players had seen Craig Sibbald - a player younger than many of them - grasp his first team opportunity with both hands. Steven Pressley was watching on from the stands and youngsters Craig Comrie and Conor Kelly did their chances no harm of following Blair Alston and Kallum Higginbotham from this tournament to the first team.

It took until the ninth minute for Falkirk to open the scoring. There was a relaxed fluency to Falkirk’s passing play, and after a scare when goalkeeper Graham Bowman almost fumbled Ryan Borris’ corner into his net, the Bairns eased in front.

The players showed a good understanding with knock-ons and lay-offs and that brought about the opening goal. Liam Rowan did well with a first touch that left Kieran Brannan flat-footed. He played a ball wide to Kris Faulds, whose cross was nodded in by Ally Graham for his second cup goal in a week.

Graham went close to a second for Falkirk after more impressive build-up play from Comrie, Kelly and Faulds. Comrie’s distribution was particularly good, providing a midfield focal point that allowed Jay Fulton to roam. He set the example for his team-mates who all used the ball well.

Falkirk had a penalty shout on 35 minutes. Ryan Millar raced through the defence before a well-timed tackle from behind by Martin McNiff cleared the ball for corner.

Dumbarton had ex-Falkirk trialist David Winters in their ranks and he showed composure to lift the ball over Graham Bowman on 38 minutes after the goalkeeper failed to decide whether to rush and collect the ball, or not, in time.

The second half felt like a draw, but the chance of the match fell to Dumbarton late on. Gary McKell ran onto a clever lay-off from Winters and the Bairns goalkeeper was down well to block the powerful ten-yard strike, and again to block the rebound from McKell.

He took another comfortable catch on 78 minutes, saving from Tony Wallace’s header. The powerful midfielder had almost single-handedly won the cup for Dumbarton a year ago, but this year the cup was lifted by Falkirk.

Kris Faulds had a shot beaten off the line ten minutes from the end after Ryan Millar squared from the by-line. Jay Fulton’s cross was also nearly turned in by Dom Kennedy in the final minute before spot-kicks.

An injury time miscued header by Steven Brisbane just floated over the head of Winters on the line before Stephen Finnie called for penalty kicks.

Like last week, Dale Fulton stroked the first home before Liam Rowan, Millar and Comrie scored. Ally Graham wanted to take one of last week’s kicks at Tannadice, but got his chance this time round.

It was saved by Jamie Ewings to send the shoot-out to sudden death.

Jamie Lyden hit the bar for Dumbarton leaving Jay Fulton the task of hammering home the winner and kicking off the pentagonal.

FALKIRK: Bowman, Rowan, Dick, D.Fulton, Turnbull (Brisbane 85), Comrie, Faulds, J.Fulton, Graham, Kelly (Grant 66), Millar. Not used: Munn, McGrandles, Amos.