FORGET the last-minute goal for the home side, this was no hard luck story for Hibs. It was more like they looked as though they were going to get away with plundering a point until Falkirk got what they deserved right at the death as David McCracken drilled the ball home to give them their second victory of the campaign over the Easter Road side.
Scorers: Falkirk - McCracken 90
Both the circumstances and manner of this defeat must be wounding for Alan Stubbs and his men. After improved form of late it was back to the wholly unconvincing and shapeless sort of fare he inherited on his arrival at the club. As it is, Hibs not only missed out on narrowing the gap on third place as Queen of the South were being overrun by Hearts, but they’ve also now allowed Falkirk to come within uncomfortably close reach themselves in the chase for the Championship play-off places.
It leaves the onlooker as perplexed as ever about Hibs’ likely fate next Spring, but one thing was clear – they certainly miss Dominique Malonga hugely as they had no cutting edge at all in this game.
Stubbs didn’t think there was much between the sides but conceded that “there were too many not on their game today and they’ve been told that. We’ve had a good run of late, but it’s a wake-up call.”
Falkirk certainly invested an enormous amount of effort in this game and stuck to it right to the end with handsome rewards. “It was a tough game, but credit to our players,” reflected their delighted manager Peter Houston. “It’s a big, big win. Hibs coming here was always going to be a huge game. For long spells it maybe looked like it was going to be a draw, but to get the last-minute win it makes it all the sweeter”.
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It was an encounter that was never easy on the eye. In part this was down to Stubbs’ men sorely lacking conviction and penetration in the final third with just too many examples of poor passes and even poorer decision making. Home goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald was almost completely idle in the opening 45 minutes with a free kick in a promising position on the edge of the box being directed nowhere near his general direction by Scott Allan, and only a curling effort by Sam Stanton causing him momentary palpitations.
Falkirk, though, played like a team with a plan. Compact and organised at the back and with plenty of pace upfront in Rory Loy and Botti Biabi, they eased their way into the game and really ought to have gone in at the interval with their noses in front. Only two immaculately executed last-gasp interventions, by Lewis Stevenson and Paul Hanlon respectively, prevented the nimble Loy being clean through on goal in the first half.
Drawing encouragement from this, the Bairns really took the game to Hibs after the interval with Loy threatening to become a one-man wrecking ball. He really should have found the back of the net when the ball landed at his feet only about ten yards out, but his effort was a wild one. Youthful inexperience got the better of his strike partner Biabi as the youngster passed up a couple more tantalising chances before being substituted.
The expected improvement in the visitors’ game after the break just didn’t materialise and only once did they nearly put it all together with a lovely burst down the left flank by Danny Handling seeing the ball roll invitingly into the path of Paul
Heffernan but his effort was blocked.
It looked as though Hibs had somehow, unconvincingly, dug out a point as the hosts lost some of their zip until they summoned up some more reserves in search of a winner. They found one too from a genuinely unexpected source – central defender McCracken, lurking around the box, calmly collected a loose ball and drilled in a precision shot worthy of any striker.
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