Following Falkirk’s Scottish Cup semi final victory over Hibernian on Saturday, Scotzine caught up with Lewis Connolly of Falkirk TV fame to give his verdict on the game.
The whistle has gone, the dust has settled and the hangover headache is over, almost. The time has arrived to reflect on a fantastic win for The Bairns at the weekend that sees them progress into the Scottish Cup final.
Firstly, commiserations to The Hibees. They put in a spirited performance with plenty of effort and were cheered on by a vocal support. Ultimately it wasn’t to be their day though and it was the boys in blue that will make the return trip to Hampden next month.
Much was made about the lack of firepower Falkirk would have on the day with top scorer Rory Loy injured and strike partner John Baird cup tied. Not to mention the added absence of Mark Kerr to the same fate as Baird. The players galvanised though and in the face of a challenge they drew strength from their previous performances against Hibs this season and that gave them a quiet confidence.
There are many of the player’s performances that I could wax lyrical about but it genuinely was a team effort.
Jamie MacDonald probably had his best game in a Bairns jersey and his touch onto the post was a brilliant save and he dealt with everything else the Easter Rd men threw at him.
The defence were posed some serious questions by a Hibs side with some quality players such as Scott Allan, who’s one of the best in the division, but they stood firm.
Captain David McCracken marshalled the resolute backline well and 21 year old Peter Grant Jnr was dominant in the air whilst recently converted defender Luke Leahy improves with every game.
Will Vaulks and ex-Hibee Tom Taiwo covered a huge amount of ground to break down Hibs’ attacks and Blair Alston’s determination helped set up the goal.
It will once again be Craig Sibbald who takes the midfield plaudits though for another fine performance. The youngster seems to have been around forever but is still in his teens and is finally getting the praise his hard work deserves, though how he’s not in the Scotland U21 squad is astonishing. His composure, vision and close control are second to none and once again “Mini Messi”, having his best ever season, produced the goods when it counts.
Bookies had Falkirk as underdogs but Peter Houston’s tactics were absolutely spot on and, allied to some profligate finishing from Hibs, proved the difference.
Firstly, he condensed the midfield to play with a narrow four, forcing Hibs wide and restricting them in large to efforts from outside the box or to cross into the centre where McCracken and Grant are strongest. Conversely, his meticulous homework meant he was acutely aware of Hibs’ achilles heel: crosses into the box. Plus his introduction of Botti Biabi gave more of a needed cutting edge.
Falkirk have faced Hibs four times this season, scoring in every encounter, winning three and having to yet taste defeat. That’s no coincidence. It’s astute tactics, whether people care to admit it or not.
Hibs will feel aggrieved but to Bairns everywhere it was sweet revenge for two years ago when Leigh Griffiths got them out of jail.
Did Falkirk have a little luck? Undoubtedly. Though the lions share of their luck they created themselves through sheer hard graft and endeavour. That’s something they’ll need to recreate if they are again to cause an upset against a fantastic Inverness team who play some great football and to become the first team outwith the top flight to win the Scottish Cup since East Fife in 1938.
Something which couldn’t be belittled.