Familiarity breeds contempt. This was the 13th meeting between Hibs and Falkirk over the past two-and-a-bit seasons. Over that time, each side has managed what few can do in the lower leagues of Scottish football, and that’s keep the core of their respective teams together. Yesterday, the ongoing rivalry was there for all to see as they, almost literally at times, fought out a 1-1 draw at Easter Road.
In fairness, it might not have been such an emotive affair had Tom Taiwo not seen red for a first-half challenge on John McGinn. From there, Falkirk played with commendable discipline and organisation at the back, while simultaneously infuriating the home players and fans with various spoiler tactics. Although, from a Falkirk perspective, it was something they were pushed into by what they felt was a harsh decision.
“What I see from the video is that John McGinn goes in with two feet, and Tom Taiwo goes in with one and wins the ball. If I’m being honest, I think it was really, really harsh,” said Falkirk boss Peter Houston.
“It changes the game. I thought we started ok. Here at Easter Road you’re not always going to have the ball because Hibs are a good side, so it changes your mentality that you have to make sure you’re well-organised.”
Falkirk did start fairly well and created the game’s first opportunity prior to the red card. Myles Hippolyte sent in a deep, inch-perfect cross to Craig Sibbald running in behind, which the midfielder could only blast over the bar from inside the area.
Falkirk’s presence as an attacking threat disappeared the second Taiwo and McGinn came together 30 yards from the Falkirk goal. Referee John Beaton managed the impressive feat of brandishing the red card while simultaneously separating belligerent factions from both sides.
McGinn soon established himself as the fulcrum of Hibs’ attack. The midfielder was playing after making the midnight dash back from Wembley, having sat on the bench for Scotland on Friday night. After dusting himself off following the Taiwo tackle, McGinn went close with a stinging drive from 30 yards that Danny Rogers had to push away. After another bout of handbags between the teams, McGinn slipped in striker Grant Holt who had a front post effort pushed away.
Hibs thought they had the opener on the stroke of half-time. Andrew Shinnie slalomed his way through the defence into the centre of the area. Though he was eventually crowded out, Martin Boyle nipped in and finished after rounding the goalkeeper. Unfortunately for the in-form speedster, the effort was ruled out for offside.
The second half started in the same vein and it wasn’t long before Houston made the decision to make his team even more difficult to break down, withdrawing Sibbald for the industrious John Rankin. Hibs continued to bombard the penalty area, but struggled to create many clear-cut chances through Falkirk’s narrow two banks of four. The best chance of the period fell to Liam Fontaine, who hooked his finish from inside the six-yard area wide of the far post.
Finally the visitors managed to break free in the 78th minute with John Baird taking the ball for a run down the Hibs left. After winning a corner off McGinn, the striker was in the right place to get on the end of David McCracken’s knockdown, hooking it beyond Ross Laidlaw in the Hibs goal and sparking pandemonium in the away end.
Though it looked like being one of those days, Hibs refused to succumb to fatalism and hauled themselves level just six minutes later. McGinn’s deep cross was nodded back across goal and past Rogers by Paul Hanlon at the back post. McGinn almost assisted the winner a short-time later, with Holt glancing his corner narrowly wide, before Rogers saved from the Scotland midfielder’s long-range effort in injury-time.