You only had to take a look at the Rangers end to know what victory meant to the visiting fans; blessed relief with the accompanying stupidity of a flare thrown on to Falkirk’s plastic pitch at the end of this cup tie from the Rangers end, an incident that had the officials at the home club studying the damage and seething in the aftermath.
Scorers: Law 89; Templeton 90
Gary Holt, the Falkirk manager, said he wanted to bite his tongue on the matter but couldn’t help himself. “I’m not happy about it. I don’t really want to go into it but it’s something that has happened and it’s not a nice thing. It shouldn’t happen. But what can Rangers do about it? It’s mindless people who come sometimes and just want to be disruptive. It doesn’t make it right but you can’t ban everyone from coming to a game.”
Falkirk’s general manager, David White, said that the flare had caused “quite a substantial hole” which will need to be repaired immediately. The club has been in touch with the pitch’s manufacturer, Greenfields, in Holland and the hope is that they can get an expert to Scotland in time for Falkirk’s U-20 game on Tuesday night.
“We need to get it assessed,” said White. “The whole cost of our pitch was £450,000 and it depends on whether we can patch it or do a whole new strip to go across the pitch. The Rangers directors are embarrassed and have apologised to Falkirk for a brand new pitch being wasted by a moment of madness. They have already assured us that they will pay for all the damage that was caused by their supporters.”
More will be heard about this. For the banned throwing of a flare, the SFA will get involved for sure and there was also an outbreak of chanting that was objectionable. A brainless section of the Celtic support got rightly carpeted after Tuesday night for displaying a banner with the image of an IRA terrorist on it. Rangers, yesterday, sang about the same person, Bobby Sands, during this cup tie. What lamentable stuff it was. Pitiful in the extreme. In the past week, at both Celtic and Rangers matches, a long-dead hunger striker from Northern Ireland has been sung about more than any player from either of the Glasgow teams. A grim and mortifying state of affairs.
None of this is going to put Falkirk back in the Scottish Cup, of course, and, to be honest, they don’t deserve to be there.
Rangers were ordinary even when Falkirk had David McCracken sent-off a dozen minutes into the second half, but they never stopped pushing for a winner and eventually got what they deserved. The breakthrough should have come earlier than it did, though. In the first half Lee McCulloch, Jon Daly and Lee Wallace all had decent opportunities to punish Falkirk and they wasted each one.
In the second half they had that McCracken moment – a clumsy tackle on Nicky Clark – which not only brought a red card for the defender but also a penalty for Rangers, which was duly missed by McCulloch, his thumping effort beaten away by the excellent Michael McGovern.
This was typical of Rangers on the day. Until Law’s cool finish one minute from time and David Templeton’s clinical second in the 93rd minute, they were energetic but wasteful, hard-working but desperately uninspired, dominant but incapable of showing anything close to the kind of accuracy in their passing that they needed to show. Falkirk had little going for them bar hard graft and plenty of dig. It wasn’t enough.
As time ticked by you thought that they might, just, survive for a replay, that feeling hardening when McCulloch had the ball in their net only for the goal to be ruled offside and, then, quickly after, when Fraser Aird’s first touch after having come on as a substitute saw his shot rebound off the Falkirk crossbar.
The Rangers manager said that he hadn’t accepted that a replay was a fait accompli, pointing out that Rangers have improved their fitness from where they were at this point of last season. “I was never accepting a replay because the boys have shown this year that their levels of fitness are vastly improved to last year,” he said.
McCoist turned his attention to the draw for the next round, mentioning that one bookmaker has made them second favourites, behind Celtic, to win the cup but that most layers have them behind Aberdeen, Motherwell and Dundee United also.
“Time will tell if we’re good enough to beat opposition of that quality,” said McCoist. “But it’s not something that scares us.” Rangers are in the hunt, but as much as the drama of their late goals was a talking point, so, too, was the behaviour of the moron(s) who thought it a good idea to hurl a flare on to a pitch and bring embarrassment on their club.