SPFL Championship: FALKIRK 2 DUNFERMLINE 0: 04/02/17

Same again starting eleven. John Baird (34) 1-0: Lee Miller (77) 2-0

The Pars were hoping for three points when they returned to the Falkirk Stadium for the third meeting of the season against rivals the Bairns. Falkirk having won and drawn the first two encounters came into this match on the back of just two wins in their last eight matches while Dunfermline arrived undefeated in eleven league and cup matches.

Allan Johnston named the same starting eleven for the third successive match while Peter Houston made two changes as Joe McKie and James Craigen came in for Fraser Aird (family bereavement) and Mark Kerr (hamstring).

Judging by the buoyancy of the Pars fans as they warmed up prior to kick off this was going to be another epic Derby match. The tannoy blared out the customary question about directions to Amarillo before the teams emerged and it was to be navy blue v red as the Fifers were in their away strip.

The home side kicked off attacking the goal in front of the 1321 travelling fans. It was Falkirk who took the game to their visitors in the opening minutes and Jason Talbot and Callum Morris were called upon to make serious interceptions.

It was right on seven minutes before there was any real danger at either end but Falkirk created a great opening when former Morton midfielder made a powerful run through the middle before, about 25 yards out, squaring to his left. John Baird left the ball to run to Myles Hippolyte and his blast at goal was only a yard wide left.

Slack play allowed Luke Leahy to get deep down the left and send over a cross that was not really dealt with. Craigen was able to rise over Nat Wedderburn and teeing up another cross that Baird rose to but the flag was already up for offside.

Falkirk continued to have the upper hand sending a 16th minute free kick into the left side of the Pars box but John Herron cleared. Nicky Clark was caught offside as the Pars tried to get further up the park and then it was back to the Pars half although Sean Murdoch had no problem holding Hippolyte`s diagonal pass into his box.

The first corner of the day went Falkirk`s way in 19 minutes but Murdoch was well out to take Craigen`s delivery from the left. Three minutes later Murdoch came out to gather as Baird was played through the middle. Play stopped at the midway point for injuries in separate incidents to both number threes. Talbot received treatment but was fit to continue. Leahy looked to have taken a sore one on his ankle but he too continued.

The sun made an appearance as Michael Moffat was able to clip the ball across the Falkirk six yard box. That came to nothing as did a 27th minute Higginbotham free kick that was launched High into the opposition box towards Wedderburn but Peter Grant cleared. Paul McMullan found himself with a chance on the right side of the Falkirk box however but sent his 28th minute shot well wide and high.

There was hope when Moffat won possession on half way and released an inviting ball for Clark to chase but the offside flag went up. At the other end Hippolyte delivered from the left and Lee Ashcroft had to block Lee Miller`s attempt. It was Andy Geggan who then got in the Pars first on target effort and keeper Danny Rogers held that at his near post.

Falkirk were to take a 34th minute lead when a free kick from the left was nodded back across goal by Miller and BAIRD had the relatively easy conversion from close on. 1-0

Moffat had the opportunity in 38th minute during the home fans minutes tribute to a fan lost recently. Unfortunately his shot from 15 yards out was sent wide right. Another Bairns free kick from the left saw the ball lifted into the Pars box but this time Geggan was first to it and Higginbotham then belted it away.

Craigen sent Baird in on the right side of the Pars penalty box but Ashcroft was quicker to react and the move terminated. It was 45th minute when the Fifers forced their first corner of the match but when Higginbotham sent that over from the left, Clark got his head to it but Falkirk blocked and Herron blasted the loose ball over the bar.

It had not been a brilliant half for the guests. Too many misplaced passes and no flowing play. Falkirk had 52% possession to Dunfermlin`s 48%, two shots to Dunfermline`s four but the all important stat, the goal belonged to Falkirk.

Half time: Falkirk 1 Dunfermline 0

The second half began a bit more promisingly for the Pars. A free kick close in on the right was won but then as Higginbotham sent the ball in, Ashcroft was penalised for bringing down his marker.

Craig Sibbald made a good run aided by playing the ball of referee Willie Collum but Ashcroft was there to slide in and block the shot. Sibbald to Baird and then on towards Hippolyte before Morris stepped in to coolly clear.

There was a let off in 52 minutes though when Miller rose to meet Hippolyte`s cross from the left at the near post and somehow from close in, managed to head outside the post. Falkirk kept up the pressure with Leahy pumping a free kick into the centre of the Pars box where Geggan headed away.

The travelling support raised the decibels as there was a period of play right in front of the Falkirk goal. Rogers was twice called into action, doing particularly well to beat away a fierce cross from Higginbotham.

There was then some stubborn Pars defending as Falkirk threatened from the left and when play switched to the other end McMullan used the break of the ball to drive to the byeline and cut back. It required an impressive diving header from Grant to keep the Pars out.

A 63rd minute double substitution that brought on Gavin Reilly and David Hopkirk in place of Michael Moffat was an attempt to alter things. Higginbotham switched to the right and Hopkirk played wide left.

Six minutes past before Falkirk spurned another good chance, a cross from the left edged on to Craigen at the far post but he sliced his attempt outside the right goalpost. A good run by Sibbald won a 72nd minute corner, then another as Grant`s header was deflected behind, and then another as Murdoch saved a drive from the left. That was defended but Craigen was able to collect and fire another shot from close in at an angle from the left and fortunately outside the near post.

Herron`s presence earned the Pars a 75th minute corner. Higginbotham`s cross was met by Ashcroft but his header continued across the face of goal and out beyond the far post. Falkirk returned to the other end and piled on more pressure. The Pars ran out of defenders as shots were blocked and Hippolyte was left to crash the ball in towards goal. Baird looked like he had scored but between Murdoch and the crossbar the ball kept out only for MILLER to stab the ball home. 2-0

Joe Cardle replaced John Herron with nine minutes remaining and he was immediately involved sending in a corner from the left but Falkirk cleared as Reilly challenged. There was no way back for Dunfermline and Falkirk saw the match out for the three points that take them eleven clear of Dunfermline.
FALKIRK: Danny Rogers: Aaron Muirhead, Paul Watson, Peter Grant, Luke Leahy (Tony Gallacher 87): James Craigen, Joe McKee, Craig Sibbald, Myles Hippolyte, Lee Miller (Nathan Austin 89), John Baird (Bob McHugh 87)
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Kidd, Luca Gasparotto, Scott Shepherd, Robbie Thomson (GK)
SCORERS: Baird (34), Miller (77)

DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Andy Geggan (c), Lee Ashcroft, Callum Morris, Jason Talbot: Paul McMullan (David Hopkirk 63), John Herron (Joe Cardle 81), Nat Wedderburn, Kallum Higginbotham: Nicky Clark, Michael Moffat (Gavin Reilly 63).
SUBS NOT USED: Rhys McCabe, Lewis Martin, Michael Paton, David Hutton (GK)

REFEREE: Willie Collum

NEXT MATCH: William Hill Scottish Cup Fifth Round (home) v Hamilton Accies, Saturday 11th October 2017, 3.00pm kick off at East End Park.

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