All Scottish Cup runs have to begin somewhere but, for Falkirk, this could not have felt further from the glamour of the final they fought out in the blazing sunshine of Hampden last May. Fraserburgh refused to make it plain sailing for the Bairns, and at one point threatened an unlikely shock, but a Lee Miller hat-trick helped the relieved hosts progress.
The visitors from the Highland League defended defiantly and, when Marc Lawrence swept in their equaliser midway through the second half, the unthinkable seemed possible. However, a header from Falkirk captain Will Vaulks ensured parity lasted barely three minutes and Miller completed his treble with a late double to celebrate penning a new deal this week.
“I warned the players this team would get one chance, and they did – and they scored,” said Falkirk manager Peter Houston. “I think all the credit goes to Fraserburgh today. They were well organised and credit to their manager, they worked really hard as a team and they got the goal.
“That’s what the romance of the cup’s all about in many ways, but it’s not good for the opposing manager. We can’t take an awful lot of credit. There’s always a concern there. One of the last things you say before three o’clock is don’t let this be the shock, but we scored quickly, and I didn’t get enough time to worry about it.”
On a grey, dreich day where the rain battered down in menacing showers and the second-half was fought out in ugly squalls of sleet, there was a party in the away end. Drummer in tow, the Fraserburgh faithful rattled joyfully through their songbook from first whistle to last. Some resplendent in fancy dress, they had also brought with them a handful of toy gulls that were confiscated when they flew too close to the job’s-worth stewards.
Set up in a solid 4-1-4-1 formation designed to frustrate, it will have been exasperating for Fraserburgh that a set-piece was their undoing so early in the match. Blair Alston’s corner picked out Miller peeling off his marker, and his excellent back-header crept in at the near post.
Thereafter, Falkirk were mostly comfortable without cutting loose. Neat in possession, they became more and more sloppy as the half wore on and the Broch waited patiently for the one chance they wanted. And when they got it, they duly took it. John Chalmers’ through ball sprang the Falkirk offside trap and, after his first effort had been blocked by debutant keeper Alex Tokarczyk, Lawrence swept in the loose ball.
But the visitors were behind again before they knew it, with another avoidable goal as Craig Sibbald’s corner was headed in by Vaulks.
Any hope the Broch still retained disappeared just three minutes later when Miller was found in acres of space in the box by Vaulks’ chipped pass to slip in Falkirk’s third, before the striker poked in the fourth from a Kevin O’Hara cutback four minutes from time.
“If we had held it at 1-1 for another five minutes who knows what would have happened,” said Fraserburgh manager Mark Cowie. “But I’m immensely proud of the guys.”