LOSING a semi-final is always hard to take. Losing one after being three goals up at half-time is another degree of difficulty altogether and this Falkirk team know they may never get a better chance of appearing in a Scottish Cup final.
Their bitter disappointment at losing 4-3 to Hibernian will take some time to diminish but, when it does, they will be able to look back with pride on the contribution they made to Saturday’s game. And, as director of football Alex Smith and new manager Gary Holt told them after the match, they will learn a lot from a draining 120 minutes at Hampden.
“Alex Smith said to us there are players in their whole career who’ll not get the experiences we got out there, playing so well, then going into extra time and missing a chance in the last minute,” right-back Kieran Duffie said. “The gaffer said we wouldn’t be thinking about it but that, when we look back at the first half and how well we played, we can take a lot of positives. But the boys in there just now are just too disappointed.”
Duffie was just one of many Falkirk players to make an impression because of the quality of their football, although he said it was only the 3-0 half-time lead, rather than the way in which his team had played, that surprised him at the interval. But he added that he expected the second-half fightback which duly materialised.
“The way we played in the first half, to go in 3-0 up, then to go into extra time still feeling we’d get that wee chance, is gutting for all the boys.
“I’m not shocked by how we played because we’re capable of doing that, even if the scoreline was better than we’d expected. The first half was all us and the second half all them.
“You could see the fans getting on their back but we said at half-time Hibs would come out and play a lot better, because they’d get a rollocking at half- time. And you could see by the way they started [the second half] that there was a reaction from them.
“You could see that, once they got the goal, they got a lift from their fans with the noise, but, even at that, I thought we were still in control. Even after they got the second, they still needed another goal. I just thought we sat off them a lot in the second half and gave them more time on the ball. I think that was just a bit of tiredness from the boys.”
In retrospect, the turning point was when Ben Williams denied Lyle Taylor late in the first half with Falkirk already three goals to the good. “He had a chance right at the end as well and, on any other day, he buries both of them,” Duffie said of the English striker.
“If we’d scored a fourth goal it would have been easier in the second half but three goals should have been enough.”