Cowdenbeath 0-2 Falkirk: Title push in safe hands

This match turned on a hectic ten-minute period at the beginning of the second half when Falkirk keeper Michael McGovern made three crucial stops and his outfield team-mates displayed some accurate finishing to push themselves to within three points of the league summit.
John Armstrong, left, of Cowdenbeath and Falkirks Phil Roberts clash in midfield. Picture: SNSJohn Armstrong, left, of Cowdenbeath and Falkirks Phil Roberts clash in midfield. Picture: SNS
John Armstrong, left, of Cowdenbeath and Falkirks Phil Roberts clash in midfield. Picture: SNS

Scorers Falkirk - Millar 52; Loy 55

Mark Millar’s opener would have been cancelled out within 60 seconds were it not for the heroics of McGovern in goal. Having already made an outstanding fingertip save from Greg Stewart just after the restart, the stopper denied Jamie Stevenson and Stewart again in quick succession. Falkirk then went up the other end and doubled the advantage as Rory Loy found the bottom corner with a left-footed shot from just inside the area.

“I thought we grew into it,” said Bairns manager Gary Holt, “but in the second half I thought we were excellent. We really upped the tempo and they couldn’t get near us after that. Michael does what he’s supposed to do; keep the ball out of the net. To be fair there’s no-one more dedicated to keeping clean sheets than him. He’s brilliant in training and he takes it onto the park. It’s good to have him back.”

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The keeper’s work began early on when Kane Hemmings forced him into a save six minutes into an end-to-end first-half. With the Dundee-Hamilton match postponed, Falkirk had their chance to make ground on the top two but initially struggled on a difficult Central Park surface. Hemmings went close once again on 15 minutes after sneaking into the six-yard area to get on the end of a long throw, flicking his effort over the crossbar.

The visitors started the match in a 4-3-3 with Blair Alston and Phil Roberts supporting Loy from the wings, and each attacker took it in turns to miss chances after Falkirk finally managed to play their way into the contest. Roberts and Loy each went wide while Alston saw a seemingly free run to goal halted by a last-ditch challenge from a covering defender.

Hemmings then had his third chance of the half, darting into the area from the right wing and driving a shot across goal.

“That’s the fourth game where we’ve been pleased at half-time,” said Cowdenbeath manager Jimmy Nicholl. “Then in the second half we don’t do enough. For whatever reason we produce very little, we let in soft goals and from what we do create, we don’t take our chances. Next week we’ve got Hamilton away and I just know the lads will go out and give them a game. It’s just for whatever reason, at home... We just can’t figure it out.”

Things could have been very different if it weren’t for a stunning save from McGovern less than a minute after the restart. Hemmings’ cross from the left picked out Stewart who headed down from six yards out. McGovern showed incredible reactions to reach the ball and enough strength in his hand to push the attempt wide of the post.

Six minutes later Falkirk were in front. Craig Sibbald’s deflected shot was tipped wide by Thomas Flynn, but Cowdenbeath did not react quickly enough to the short corner. Loy played it to Millar and the on-loan Dundee United midfielder found the net with a powerful effort.

After McGovern’s double-save, Falkirk attacked once more and put the game beyond doubt when Roberts slipped in Loy and the striker found the back of the net with a sharp finish on the turn.

The quick-fire double knocked the stuffing out of the hosts who never looked like getting back into the match as they slumped to their sixth consecutive home defeat.