IT’S not the first time a Hibs team has been left scratching heads after coming up empty against Jamie MacDonald. For a few years now they have often struggled to get the better of him as he tended goal for Hearts and, despite a summer switch to Falkirk, the 28-year-old proved miserly on Saturday.
Hibernian 0-1 Falkirk
Scorer: Falkirk - Loy (13)
Hibs manager Alan Stubbs couldn’t understand how his side could create the openings they had and still come up short. But he admitted that they could have probably been playing for several hours and still drawn a blank.
For MacDonald that was almost as pleasing as the three points. “I really enjoy coming here. I’ve got a pretty decent record and it was nice to get the clean sheet. It was my first shut-out for Falkirk and that was a great time to get it. It’s good to get that monkey off your back because you start thinking ‘is it ever going to come’.”
That exact thought must have gone through the minds of the home players, management and supporters as the likes of Alex Harris and the two lads making their starting debuts, Scott Allan and Matthew Kennedy, set up Paul Heffernan and Farid El Alagui for chance after chance. Way too often they were lacking when they should have been sharper but, on other occasions, quality tackles and timely blocks by their rivals foiled their ambitions.
“Tom Taiwo, Will Vaulks, Cracks [David McCracken], everybody was putting bodies on the line,” said MacDonald. But there were several one-on-one moments between him and El Alagui, in particular. Every time he emerged with plaudits, the former Falkirk striker was left with only a growing sense of frustration.
It was an emotion shared by the Easter Road support and management team, as well as the men providing the steady supply. “We had a load of chances in the game – enough for two or three games – but it wasn’t to be for our strikers, who are usually such good finishers,” said Kennedy. “It was frustrated and you could tell the fans were getting annoyed. We were as well. But we are getting into positions and the goals will eventually come. All you can do is keep providing and creating chances for the strikers.”
The fans were able to take out their frustration on their old derby foe, MacDonald, who got a buzz from returning to Leith. “To be honest, my reception was better than what I thought it would be. I figured it might be a bit harsher. Mind you, after the last one with Hearts – with shoes and chairs and all sorts chucked at me – anything would be better than that!
“The professional answer is that I treat every game the same but I suppose there is a bit of an extra buzz with a trip to Easter Road.”
It was a day when Hibs bemoaned the lack of points for their effort but, for Falkirk, it was a welcome turnaround in fortunes and a reminder that the challenge for the Championship title will come from more than two or three clubs.
The goal from Rory Loy was worthy of winning any game. The gallusness of the backheel as exquisite as the awareness and composure. The ball was played back into a congested six-yard-box by Conor McGrandles and he fooled everyone by not attempting to turn or even lay it off but just back heeling it into Mark Oxley’s goal in the 13th minute.
“We’ve played really well the last few weeks and maybe not had the rewards in the league,” said MacDonald. “But getting three points at Hibs really signals our intent that it won’t just be ‘the big three’.”
It gave Falkirk their first win of the campaign ahead of their visit to league leaders Hearts on Saturday. “Hopefully I will get a nice reception. It’s going to be strange going back there – I’ll need to make sure I go in the right changing room.”