better meddle...

wi' the de'il than the bairns o' fa'kirk

Match Report

Sunday, 28th September, 2008

by Dave Hammond

Novices beaten at their own game

THIS WAS the first time that these two teams had faced each other in the Premier League and with Falkirk having been resident in this league for the last three years, it is not surprising that Hamilton look upon the Stirlingshire side as something of a model to follow.

A 4-1 drubbing for the division's new boys tells the tale, however, that Accies have a way to go yet in their aspirations of "doing a Falkirk" and establishing themselves as the small boy among the big boys.

Hamilton's arrival in the top flight has taken many by surprise and indeed the way they have gone about their business has won them many plaudits.

Like Falkirk, they aspire to become established in the top flight on the basis not of scrapping their way around the country, but by prudent management off the pitch and attractive, neat football on it.

For their part, Falkirk have done well to not only hold onto their top-flight status, but, over the piece, look comfortable in such surroundings.

There are a number of similarities between these two clubs, one being that both are managed by determined men who had playing reputations of being tough, and yet have proceeded to fashion sides that play with style.

Both are prepared to make bold tactical changes in a game, but on this occasion it was Falkirk's John Hughes who assessed the match unfolding in front of them the better.

Falkirk showed their composure early on to ride their mistakes, cover their backs and take a lead whether they were deserving of it or not.

Once they had their noses in front they weathered the changes as Accies tried to whip up a storm and, although they conceded a late goal, they played with confidence and directness to amass four goals for the first time this season.

Before the opening strike both sides had created chances, the most notable being when Simon Mensing was forced to hook the ball off the line as Stevie Lovell's shot was about to enter the goal.

The goal that broke the deadlock did not arrive until just before the break. Scott Arfield linked well with the industrious Irishman Graham Barrett, whose cross from the right was met at the far post by Lovell, who steered the ball into the empty net from close range.

Minutes later Falkirk nearly doubled their lead when Arfield slid the ball down the centre of the pitch for Lovell, who was robbed by an exquisitely timed challenge from Martin Canning.

To that point, Accies had had their fair share of the game, with Hughes confessing that his side were fortunate to go in 1-0 up.

Derek Lyle had shot tamely into the arms of Robert Olejnik as early as the 15th minute and Darren Barr had lived dangerously when he mistimed a back pass that Joel Thomas was keen to pounce on ahead of the goalkeeper.

Billy Reid, the Accies manager, clearly intended to change the nature of the game after the break, however. He moved Mensing into a more central position and within 10 minutes of the restart had introduced Richard Offiong and Stephen Ettien into the game. The impact of the two substitutes was immediate.

Offiong was involved in a build up that sent James McArthur round the back of the home defence on the right hand side. McArthur's cross was met by Ettien at the far post, but the substitute's close range effort bounced agonisingly off the foot of the post with Olejnik beaten.

The threat to Falkirk down that channel continued briefly, McArthur again getting round the back to supply James McCarthy, but there was to be no equaliser. Instead, Falkirk doubled their lead on 69 minutes, Arfield grabbing a wonderful solo goal, dribbling through the midfield before driving a low, angled shot across the face of Tomas Cerny's goal.

Just two minutes later Cerny's poor clearance found its way to Burton O'Brien, who took little time in making his way to the same spot that Arfield had scored from. His shot was angled almost exactly the same, and the net bulged in exactly the same position, Cerny again unable to get across his goal quick enough.

Accies by now were in disarray, and with four minutes remaining Gerard Aafjes earned a penalty when he was upended by David Graham.

There was no question as to who the penalty taker was to be, Arfield grabbing the ball before driving a low shot to the right of Cerny.

There was small consolation for the visitors in the 90th minute when Trent McLenahan's cross was turned into his own net by Olejnik.

Next week, Hamilton face SPL Champions Celtic, but there wasn't slightest hint they will be cowed by the Glasgow giants. "We are not going to press the panic button, we were not outclassed" said Reid. "We will be trying to win the game at Celtic. We will still play 4-3-3."