Falkirk are through to the next round of the Scottish Cup after a fairly routine 2-o win over Arbroath thanks to goals from Declan McManus and Connor Sammon.
With a TV clash against Premiership Hearts awaiting the winner in the next round, there was plenty at stake on a wet night in Falkirk as the Bairns looked to progress at the expense of their Championship rivals.
Both sides were coming off the back of league wins at the weekend, with the Bairns thrashing Forfar 6-0 while Dick Campbell’s side beat Partick Thistle 2-1.
— James Black (@jamesblack1986) January 28, 2020
There was little to split the sides in the early stages before the first real opportunity fell to Arbroath’s Michael McKenna following some good work by Scott Stewart down the right.
After McKenna’s effort was deflected wide the resulting corner caused real problems for the Bairns defence as Gregor Buchanan cleared the danger.
The Bairns weren’t letting the Championship side have it all their own way, seeing plenty of possession as the first half went on, and started to take control of the game.
Charlie Telfer almost found a way through the Arbroath defence after Mo Gomis showed excellent composure to make a yard or two of space then spread the play wide, but the former Rangers kid’s cross was cut out.
It was the hosts who were the cause of the breakdown of many of their attacks, with too many passes just a little bit too short or hit a bit too far wide of its intended target.
There were precious few real chances for either side in the opening 45 as Falkirk struggled to make their dominance pay and Arbroath offered little going forward.
Aidan Connolly did have one decent effort on goal when he tried his luck from distance but, despite sending Derek Gaston scrambling, he couldn’t get it on target.
Falkirk really should have made it 1-0 just before the break when Sammon got the break of the ball from an attempted clearance but the striker took too long and saw his attempt smothered by Gaston.
There was one final chance before the break as Falkirk broke quickly through Sammon and the always-lively Declan McManus before the ball fell to Gomis on the edge of the area but his strike took a deflection on its way over the bar for a corner.
Falkirk 0 – 0 Arbroath – Terrible weather with few chances for either side pic.twitter.com/UUXTefuscz
— Arbroath FC (@ArbroathFC) January 28, 2020
With no changes at the break for either side, it was the hosts who were on the front foot early before taking the lead with just two minutes played after the restart.
The Bairns won a corner on the right which eventually fell to McManus and the on-fire striker fired home from close range to send the home support wild.
It was little more than Falkirk’s first-half performance deserved and really put the onus of Arbroath to come out and try make something happen.
The conditions continued to play a big part with driving rain causing problems underfoot for players and making the ball skid up off the Bairns’ artificial surface.
Arbroath were then forced into a change when MikoVirtanen was forced off with through injury and replaced by David Gold, moments before they had a strong shout for a penalty but the referee saw nothing in it.
Falkirk continued to push forward in search of a second goal and it came through Connor Sammon after 66 minutes – Declan McManus did the hard work and laid it on a tee for the big striker and he tapped home to take a huge step closer to a glamour clash with Hearts.
That was to be Sammon’s last real involvement as he was replaced by David McMillan while Arbroath made a double switch in a bid to salvage something from the game, as Omar Kader and Logan Chalmers came on for Bobby Linn and Michael McKenna for the final 20 minutes.
Charlie Telfer’s night was also to come to an end soon after as the midfielder was replaced by Josh Todd with 73 minutes on the clock and any sting largely taken out of the game.
Falkirk were good value for their lead at this stage and, despite being in a lower division, the Bairns were more than comfortable and made their final change as Raffa de Vita took over for the impressive Connolly for the final stages.
There was almost a third goal late on for the hosts as Todd’s strike from distance wrong-footed Gaston but edged the wrong side of the far post, to Arbroath’s relief.
By the end, Falkirk were deserving winners and will now look forward to welcoming Daniel Stendel’s Hearts to the Falkirk Stadium in the next round.