better meddle...

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

Match Report

Saturday, 27th September, 2008

Falkirk 4-1 Hamilton Academical

Rampant Falkirk rose off the bottom of the table with a rout at home to Hamilton Academical.

Steve Lovell, a Scott Arfield double and Burton O'Brien's goals secured the victory, with the visitors' replay coming from debuant Trent McLenahan.

Lovell's close-range effort put Falkirk ahead before half-time before Scott Arfield's mazy run and shot and O'Brien's screamer.

Arfield hit a penalty for his second and Hamilton hit a late consolation.

Both began the match utilising fluid formations designed to get men forward when in possession and players back when not.

And it was one of Hamilton's roaming midfielders, James McCarthy, who was permitted the game's first sight of goal after five minutes only to blaze wildly past.

In a low-key opening, Falkirk midfielder Burton O'Brien had a shot blocked by David Elebert but it was Hamilton who enjoyed more of the possession in the early exchanges.

Ironically, the visitors' most decisive move then came after a concerted spell defending their own penalty area.

Whilst Falkirk failed to make real inroads, Accies swept up the field only for Bairns keeper Robert Olejnik to get his full body behind Derek Lyle's left-foot shot.

Hamilton counterpart Tomas Cerny looked less convincing as he challenged Steve Lovell for the ball on the edge of his six-yard box.

But, fortunately for the SPL newcomers, Simon Mensing was on hand to clear the loose ball off his line.

Falkirk were struggling to get their passing game going, with a lack of movement in front of hesitant defenders seeing moves break down too often in their own half.

The Bairns were also failing to cope with McCarthy's free role behind lone striker Joel Thomas.

The teenager turned away from home skipper Darren Barr far too easily in the 26th minute and the Scotland defender was lucky his tug on McCarthy's jersey took place just outside the area and that the free-kick came to nothing.

Falkirk finally threatened the Hamilton goal with two chances inside a minute.

First, Graham Barrett swivelled on Michael Higdon's pass but shot too close to Cerny and then he hit the side-netting after Higdon and Lovell had combined to find the Irishman space.

Nine minutes from the break, Tony Stevenson's inswinging corner had the home defence in trouble but Thomas' header was scooped over the bar by Olejnik.

With the break fast approaching, Falkirk finally ended the tedium with a well-worked goal.

Higdon's neat touch allowed Barrett to scamper into space just inside the box and his cross was knocked in from close range by Lovell.

Hamilton made a tactical switch at the start of the second period, with Mensing being pushed forward from right-back into central midfield and Stevenson moving back into defence.

However, McCarthy almost set up an equaliser within a minute of the restart.

The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international sent a magnificent reverse pass into the inside-right channel for James McArthur to run on to but the midfielder's shot was too weak and was held by Olejnik.

Mensing had a shot bravely blocked by Barr at one end before Cerny fisted away Kevin McBride's powerful drive as Falkirk responded with a counter-attack.

Both sides were producing far better fare but the visitors decided on a bold double-switch in the 55th minute, replacing Thomas and Lyle with Richard Offiong and Stephen Ettien, Wednesday's match-winner against Motherwell.

Within three minutes, Ettien came within a whisker of levelling. The Frenchman headed David Graham's cross against Olejnik's right-hand post with what looked like the aid of a touch from the Falkirk keeper and the Bairns won the ensuing scramble for the loose ball.

Falkirk midfielder Scott Arfield spoke prior to the game of adding more goals to his game and after a quiet display grabbed a superb second of the season in the 69th minute.

The Scotland under-21 cap ghosted past some despairing lunges as he drove at the Hamilton defence and his left-footed shot beat Cerny low to his left.

Two minutes later, the Bairns sealed all three points with a third when Cerny was culpable with a poor clearance straight to O'Brien.

The summer signing did not take the chance to shoot from distance towards an unguarded net but his eventual drive flew past the Czech keeper for a magnificent strike.

Lovell passed up an excellent opportunity for a fourth in the 79th minute as he blazed just wide from Arfield's pass and Cerny turned aside Higdon's effort eight minutes from time as Falkirk finished on top.

However, John Hughes' side were not to be denied and Arfield swept in a penalty three minutes from time after David Graham had taken down substitute Gerard Aafjes.

The visitors at least grabbed a consolation in the 90th minute as Olejnik could only turn McLenahan's cross into his own net.

Falkirk manager John Hughes: "We were a bit fortunate to come in at half-time 1-0 ahead. I felt Hamilton were the better team.

"We just needed to regroup, get one or two things sorted out. They know how to move people about and pass it sharper.

"I felt we did that in the second half and we got our rewards with some wonderful goals."

Hamilton manager Billy Reid: "I think we were well in the game and probably the better side in the opening 45 minutes.

"We lost the goal just before half-time and it was a bit of a killer for us. We made changes and looked lively, but we didn't get there.

"We just lost our way, but we're a young side and we're learning."