Craig Fowler looks back at a memorable comeback from the Bairns on Friday night football.
Don’t count out this Falkirk side
Expected by the majority to fall out of their lofty perch between Rangers and Hibs in the Ladbrokes Championship, Falkirk have spent the whole season proving people wrong and they did it again on Friday night. Even when Barrie McKay passed up the one-on-one at 2-0, nobody expected it would come back to haunt Rangers. But they changed their shape, improved their energy and concentration levels tenfold, and hung around in the game long enough to hurt Rangers when the visitors took their eye off the ball.
You can’t go toe-to-toe with Rangers
Earlier this season, when Falkirk defeated Rangers 2-1 at the Falkirk Stadium, they did so by defending deep, keeping it narrow and looking to hurt Rangers on the counter attack with pace running in behind. Their set up for this contest was the opposite. They were wide, had the defensive line pushed up high and started with veteran Lee Miller up front. The former Aberdeen striker has proven to be the perfect foil for John Baird on occasion, but mobility is not one of his strong points. Rangers were excellent in the early exchanges, but Falkirk played right into their hands.
The old defensive issues can return for Rangers
Had Blair Alston’s goal came from nowhere then you could perhaps understand the collapse if Rangers were caught a little cold by an opponent suddenly ramping up the pressure, but Falkirk had given them a couple of warnings prior to Alston’s terrific strike. At this stage in the game, shutting up shop would have been the sensible thing to do. Instead, Myles Hippolyte was able to wreak havoc on the left wing without much resistance and Falkirk made their heroic comeback. It’s a call back to their prior vulnerability and should be Mark Warburton’s first point of interest when he and the players review the match next week.
Mark Warburton made the wrong substitute (but it’s forgiveable)
The talk after the match centred on the substitution of Barrie McKay. The winger was, arguably, Rangers best player and yet he was withdrawn for Harry Forrester. Warburton insisted he had no regrets over the switch before revealing he wanted McKay to have a rest with the Scotland under-21 double-header coming up. The BT Sport pundits thought it was a mistake, but what does it matter if you’re Warburton? Sure, they’ve been given an absolute riddy on national TV, but the title is sewn up. To him, long-term planning, which includes the fitness of his young winger and harmony of the squad, is more important. Had they lost an important game because of the substitute then he would have been deserved to be slaughtered, but he probably deserves a free pass under the circumstances.
Myles Hippolyte can be a special player
Rangers fans may be surprised to know the Falkirk substitute and undoubted game-changer often struggles for a place in the starting XI, which was also the situation when he was at Livingston. Tonight’s goal represents the second time this season he’s scored and played very well against Rangers having grabbed the equaliser in a 1-1 at Almondvale before his move to Falkirk. He’s got terrific pace, good technique and skill, and he can hit a shot. The reason he doesn’t always get a look-in is because he’s an inconsistent raw talent. While he did everything right tonight, there’s matches where he struggles badly to impose himself at all. Developing young players has been Falkirk’s forte. Hopefully they can get the best out of the ‘Hippo’.