Andy Harrow assesses how Paul Hartley’s men can upset the odds against Rangers.
Falkirk are facing Rangers at the worst possible time. The Ibrox side have won five consecutive games in all competitions and racked up 19 goals since their last defeat, at home to Hibernian.
The tie is no foregone conclusion though. Paul Hartley’s men are themselves are on an upswing having only lost once in eight games and will travel to Glasgow in some confidence. Here’s what they’ll need to do to make it into the Scottish Cup’s last four.
Catch Rangers cold
There have not been many negatives about Rangers’ recent performances but they have not been the quickest starters, especially in games they were heavily fancied to win. Alan Forrest took advantage of a rare Wes Foderingham mistake to slide Ayr United into the lead in the last round of the cup and Darren Lyon fired Hamilton ahead in the sides’ recent league encounter. If Falkirk can take advantage of any complancey within Ibrox, they stand a fighting chance of winning, although they’ll have to defend better than Ayr and Hamilton, who went onto ship six and five goals respectively.
Play on the front front
Given how prolific Rangers have been recently, it would seem a kamazike move for Falkirk to flood forward in search of goals at Ibrox. Yet, for Hartley’s men, attack may well prove the best form of defence. Although they’ve only scored once in the past two games, this is a Falkirk side who have plundered at least three goals against Queen of the South, Inverness, Brechin, Cove Rangers and Dundee United since the final fixture of 2017 and who now boast an array of potential match winners. Louis Longridge has had perhaps the best season of his career at Falkirk, Craig Sibbald is close to his best form again, while Andrew Nelson and Alex Jakubiak offer different options in attack. Against a Rangers defence who don’t look entirely assured yet, they will fancy their chances.
Pressurise Sean Goss
Of all Rangers’ January signings, Sean Goss was arguably the least eye-catching. Having only started on three occasions for his parent club, QPR - and with no appearances this season - it’s doubtful that even fans of the London club would have known about him, let alone those in Scottish football.
It’s to almost everyone’s surprise then that Goss have proven to be a crucial cog in this well-oiled Rangers machine. Sitting deep, he has dictated games from beyond the reach of the opposition enforcers, as evidenced in the Ibrox side’s comfortable victory over St Johnstone midweek. Falkirk may need to deploy one of their midfielders - perhaps Longridge if he starts in the number 10 position - as a notional man-marker to ensure Goss is starved of the space he requires to thrive.
Keep Morelos and Windass quiet
No two players have characterised Rangers resurgent form better than Josh Windass and Alfredo Morelos. While both have had good seasons, they suffered noticeable dips earlier in the season which led some to question their ability to consistently deliver. There have been no such comments in recent weeks though, with both Windass and Morelos instrumental as Rangers have blitzed all before them.
Between them, they’ve scored 11 in five games, so stopping them will be no mean feat for Hartley’s men. In order to do so, they will need to check Windass’ dangerous runs from midfield and deny Morelos the type of space in the box he thrives upon. It will be a long, draining game for Aaron Muirhead and the rest of the Falkirk defence.