Holders Make Exit - Report
Falkirk continued the defence of their Ramsdens Cup when they welcomed Rangers to The Falkirk Stadium. Rangers went on the offensive in the opening stages of the encounter and were almost ahead after nine minutes on the clock when a slip in the home defence allowed Andy Little to spin goalwards clean through on Michael McGovern and let loose a strike from 7 yards that seemed destine for the back of the net but as the away fans got out their seats in celebration Michael McGovern rushed from his line to produce a fantastic block and prevent his team losing an early goal.
Falkirk retaliated and were only inches away from taking the lead after quarter of an hour as they caught Rangers on the counter-attack with five men against three, David Weatherston swung the ball in from the right and as it flew in behind the Rangers defenders it fizzed inches past the outstretched leg of Lyle Taylor. Just four minutes later Falkirk were denied what appeared a stonewall penalty when Rangers new Brazilian signing Emilson appeared to blatantly bodycheck Taylor as he awaited a cross, needlessly bundling the forward over. Calum Murray waved away protests to the fury of the home fans.
The chances helped Falkirk grow in confidence and the youngsters were producing a valiant performance typified by a spirited showing from Craig Sibbald as he caused problems for the Rangers defence in his role tucked in behind Taylor.
Rangers inevitably gained a second wind though and had a great chance to score when Kieran Duffie was adjudged to have blocked the run of Barrie McKay which allowed Ian Black to swing in the set piece from the corner of the box and as he crossed to the back post Francisco Sandaza outjumped the home defence to power a header narrowly the wrong side of the post with McGovern beaten. Seconds later from a corner Stewart Murdoch had to hook clear a corner that flashed across goal as Rangers pressed hard for an opener.
That opener came just before half time and it was a hammer blow for the home team who had more than held their own in the tie up to that point. Chris Smith charged out of defence to challenge for a high ball only to come off second best, Sandaza exploited the space left behind by playing a quick through ball to ANDY LITTLE who drove past Kingsley and firied a low shot back across goal and into the net. Falkirk had a perfect chance to level a minute later with just seconds remaining in the half as Jonathan Flynn headed Sibbald’s corner wide of the Rangers goal.
HALF TIME: Falkirk 0 Rangers 1
The first chance of the second half fell to the home side when Kingsley swung in a cross from the left which found Duffie inrushing at the back post 9 yards out but the full-back’s effort struck his shin and flew into Alexander’s arms. Falkirk then forced two corners as they started the second half in positive fashion.
The tempo of the match seemed to drop a little from the manic pace of the first half but both teams continued to probe with little to separate the sides as both sets of fans looked on eagerly. Falkirk were narrowly edging the play but found it tough to penetrate a well marshalled Rangers defence.
Slight frustration crept in and Sibbald was the first recipient of a yellow card on 68 minutes and it was that point in time that also saw the first changes of the game in the form of a Rangers double substitution, McKay and Sandaza taken off to be replaced by Kevin Kyle and Kai Naismith respectively. This was the prompt for Falkirk to make a change six minutes later as Andy Haworth took over from Weatherston for the final stage of the match.
A momentary scare for the home side a minute later saw a Black free kick spilled by McGovern under pressure and as the loose ball fell kindly for Broadfoot 6 yards out the home fans held their breath but McGovern redeemed himself with a great save from a thundering strike by the Rangers defender. Falkirk made a second change after 82 minutes with the impressive Sibbald being withdrawn after a tireless shift and Jordan White introduced into proceedings, this was immediately followed by the final Rangers change as Crawford replaced Hegarty. Haworth then entered the referee’s notebook shortly after for a late challenge on Bocanegra.
Falkirk pressed forward in the closing stages and put pressure on the visitors but couldn’t find a way to breach the visiting defence and claim the leveller their play more than deserved, coming closest when Taylor hit the byeline and swung in a cross that flashed inches in front of White much to the relief of Alexander in the visiting goal. Ultimately Falkirk relinquished their hold of the trophy but the performance is one that the home side can be immensely proud of.
FULL TIME: Falkirk 0 Rangers 1
Falkirk: McGovern, Duffie, Kingsley, Flynn, Smith, J. Fulton, Alston, Murdoch, Taylor, Sibbald (White, 82), Weatherston (Haworth, 74).
Subs: Dick, D.Fulton, Haworth, White, Bowman
Rangers: Alexander, Hegarty (Crawford, 82), Bocanegra, Broadfoot, Cribari, McCulloch, Little, Black, Sandaza (Naismith, 68), McKay (Kyle, 68), McLeod. Subs: Crawford, Kyle, Naismith, Gallacher, Wiktorski
Referee: Calum Murray.
Asst. Referees: John Gilmour & Alan Hogg.
*Good break by David Weatherston
*Lyle Taylor just fails to connect
*Taylor continues to give the Rangers defence an uncomfortable time
*Lyle Taylor again - this time trying to outwit Kirk Broadfoot
*Stewart Murdoch blazes his way down the middle
*Craig Sibbald fights off Lewis McLeod
*David Weatherston heads for the byeline
*A fascinating duel - Alston v Black
*Taylor breaks past Cribari
*Andy Haworth lends his weight to the attack
Jordan White inches away from connecting