How the Hibs connection sent Kilmarnock past record-holders Falkirk in the SPFL Trust Trophy

Kilmarnock returned to form after last week’s defeat to Inverness and turned in a comfortable performance against Falkirk to set up an SPFL Trust Trophy tie with Queen’s Park.

Kilmarnock celebrate Fraser Murray's opener making it 1-0 during an SPFL Trust Trophy match between Kilmarnock and Falkirk at Rugby Park, on September 04, 2021, in Kilmarnock, Scotland (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)

Few matches in the competition can claim to be Scottish Cup final re-runs, but this between the 1957 and 1997 finalists lived up to headline billing.

Falkirk, the tournament’s record holders, have had a terrible record at Rugby Park in recent years, their relegation from the top flight confirmed here in 2010 and then their return denied in a play-off defeat six years later. It might not be as significant, but Kilmarnock ensured the trend rolled on by controlling a lively cup tie.

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All eyes were on Killie new boy Oli Shaw, against his former Hibs youth team-mate Paddy Martin in the Falkirk goal, but it was another former Hibee who came out on top – double scorer Fraser Murray with strikes to start and finish the match.

Kilmarnock's Oli Shaw in action during an SPFL Trust Trophy match between Kilmarnock and Falkirk at Rugby Park, on September 04, 2021, in Kilmarnock, Scotland (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)

“He’s got that in his locker,” said manager Tommy Wright. “He got a knock a few weeks ago and he’s a confidence player. But that’s more like the Fraser we saw at the start of the season in the Premier Sports Cup.

“I was pleased with him and Danny Armstrong - I think everyone did well, so really pleased with the overall performance.”

After testing Martin’s grasp with a close-range drive Murray went one better, curling inside the post from the edge of the area just four minutes in.

It was a lovely strike, matched by Aidan Nesbitt’s equaliser. The Kilmarnock defence fell foul of standing off Michael Gardyne last weekend, and did likewise to Nesbitt who twisted, turned and then fired an instant response from the edge of the area to level.

Falkirk's Aidan Nesbitt celebrates after equalising and making it 1-1 during an SPFL Trust Trophy match between Kilmarnock and Falkirk at Rugby Park, on September 04, 2021, in Kilmarnock, Scotland (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)

Kilmarnock did find the net again before the break when captain Euan Murray slapped an Armstrong cross into the net a minute after Martin had kept out another close-range header from Shaw and tipped a Murray free-kick wide. The goalkeeper ensured Falkirk stayed in touch in the first half with a series of saves leading to half-time – also denying Shaw a debut goal with his feet just before the interval.

He was beaten by a simple finish from Jason Naismith on 55 minutes though. Picked out by Alston unmarked in the Falkirk box, he slid in the second for his side and eased the growing anxiety of the home support

By then Killie were in control and could have had more, Liam Polworth glanced a Waters cross wide, and Brad Lyons blazed an Armstrong cut-back over, front and centre of goal as the home side threatened to extend their lead

It duly came with 12 minutes to play when opening goalscorer Murray ran clear and sent Killie through. Shaw almost added his name to the scoresheet but clipped just wide of a debut goal with ten minutes remaining.

“They came at us and started the game well. We were caught in the headlights a bit and they got their goal. But I thought our response to losing the goal was really good . I was pleased with the last 10 minutes of the first-half but in the second-half we lost our way a wee bit,” said Bairns boss Paul Sheerin.

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