This was the perhaps the forgotten derby of Scottish Cup weekend and, although it failed to live up to drama of the Kessock classic between Ross County and Inverness, the outcome was similarly in doubt right up until the final whistle.
Falkirk could not have hoped for a better start when they were wending their short way to Stenhousemuir for a neighbourly dispute that was settled by just one early goal.
There were just eight minutes on the clock when Kieran Duffie gave the Bairns the advantage. The full-back was fortuitous in the way his poor cross was funnelled back to him on the right side of the area. However, there was nothing lucky about the way he cut back inside onto his left foot and curled a magnificent shot into the net off the far post.
Falkirk boss Steven Pressley fielded a team that included five aged 18 or less and was thrilled to see them book their place in tomorrow’s fifth-round draw.
He said: “It’s a brilliant result for us. We had two 18-year-olds and three 17-year-olds who started the match and there is no doubting their ability. But could they handle the physical aspects of cup football? The answer is yes.”
The tension of a cup tie derby spilled over in the 13th minute when the enthusiastic Conor McGrandles, one of the Bairns’ 17-year-olds, was high and late with a dreadful tackle on Bryan Hodge, sparking an unseemly melee that climaxed with referee Mat Northcroft charitably deeming the youngster’s challenge worthy of only a yellow card.
Falkirk’s Jay Fulton sent a header over before Lyle Taylor stung the palms of Callum Reidford but it was far from plain sailing for the Bairns and the sight of Darren Smith’s cross rebounding from Michael McGovern’s crossbar in the 33rd minute gave a timely warning of the danger still posed by the Warriors.
The home side dominated after the break but Duffie cleared Ross McMillan’s shot off the line with his stomach in the dying moments before Thomas Grant’s late strike on the break for the visitors was ruled out for offside.
Stenhousemuir manager Martyn Corrigan said: “I don’t think there was a division between the teams. We still got beat and it is the result that matters but the boys played a lot of encouraging stuff.”