Morton 0-1 Falkirk: Alex Smith’s managerial powers not dimmed

Gary Harkins of Morton and Aaron Muirhead of Falkirk vie for the ball. Picture: Michael Gillen
Gary Harkins of Morton and Aaron Muirhead of Falkirk vie for the ball. Picture: Michael Gillen
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The father-figure of Scottish football, 77-year-old Alex Smith, guided Falkirk to their first Championship success of the season, with Joe McKee’s free-kick securing a 1-0 win at Morton.

The Bairns parted company with Peter Houston last weekend and technical director Smith was parachuted into an interim management role, and the boss, who guided St Mirren and Aberdeen to the Scottish Cup before several of his players were born, did not disappoint.

Smith stuck to a recipe that he knows well to achieve the success, as he explained: “Hard work is the key. If you go into a game and work hard and keep a clean sheet then you have a chance to go on and win.

“Every player responded to the work we have been doing since Monday. We needed to give the supporters something to shout about and we worked hard to do that.

“Things fell into place and it was a fantastic goal to win the game.

“We lost confidence after losing to St Mirren and Livingston in a short period of time and there were signs that it was coming back in the game.”

The experienced campaigner rang the changes with goalkeeper David Mitchell given his first start in the Championship with Robbie Thomson dropping down to the bench as did Tony Gallacher.

Craig Sibbald and Rory Loy who started last weekend in the defeat by Livingston disappeared from the squad altogether and the new look side came close to grabbing the opener on seven minutes with a curling effort by Alex Harris that just cleared the crossbar.

In 15 minutes Falkirk came close again with Nathan Austin bringing out a fine save from Derek Gaston with Kevin O’Hara curling the rebound just wide.

Austin produced a moment of magic midway through the half as he danced past two defenders, however, after setting his sights on Gaston’s goal the striker mis-kicked.

Morton, who were missing injured striker Jai Quitongo, created danger for the first time in 26 minutes when Gary Harkins’ low cross was swept towards goal by Ross Forbes for Mitchell to produce a fine one-handed save. A 30-yard drive from Aaron Muirhead with half an hour played brought out an equally fine stop from Gaston with the final chance of the half falling to Forbes eight yards out after a scramble but his effort rose over the bar.

There was little in the way of goal threat in the second half until 62 minutes when Falkirk took the lead. Tom Taiwo was fouled 30 yards from the Morton goal and former Greenock player McKee cracked his effort over the wall and under the diving Gaston.

Morton did not trouble Mitchell as they pursued an equaliser with the enigmatic Gary Harkins wasting their best opening with a feeble chip.

Home boss Jim Duffy said: “There was not much between the teams but Falkirk managed the game well after they scored. We never did enough to trouble their defence and we ran out of patience when we should have stayed calm.”