Falkirk welcomed Clyde to The Falkirk Stadium as the Bairns belatedly hosted their first game of the new campaign – and it was a good night’s work as they recorded a 2-1 win over their near-neighbours,
Clyde handed a debut to keeper Matej Vajs, just hours after signing the 20-year-old Slovakian shot-stopper as they looked to make it two wins from two in Group E.
Both sides had half-chances in the opening ten minutes as they picked up on loose balls and slack defending but neither keeper was forced into anything resembling a meaningful save before the deadlock was broken.
The Bairns’ pressure paid off with 12 minutes on the clock as Aidan Keena was there to fire the ball home beyond Vajs and give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Falkirk’s lead didn’t last long though with David Goodwillie pulling his side level just four minutes later after reacting first to a long ball forward before drilling the ball low beyond Robbie Mutch.
The hosts came within inches of restoring their lead after 20 minutes after some determined play down the left eventually saw the ball flash across goal and just wide of Vajs’ back post and out for a corner.
Vajs’ was to thank for keeping the scores level, pulling off a strong save from Dowds’ strike after 31 minutes, with the Bairns striker looking certain to make it 2-1 after a spell of dominance.
There was a blow for the Bairns when the hard-working Keena was forced off ten minutes before the break after a nasty collision, likely leaving him doubtful for this weekend’s league opener.
With the second period just seconds old, the Bairns won a spot-kick after Robbie Leitch was brought down and Morrison cooly dispatched the penalty to give Falkirk the lead.
Despite seeing plenty of the ball, Clyde struggled to get themselves back level and Bairns keeper Robbie Mutch was relatively quiet as Clyde chased an equaliser.
It wasn’t to come though and Falkirk must surely have one eye on qualification and a place in the last 16.
Here are three things we learned as the Bairns and Bully Wee went head-to-head:
Falkirk aren’t going to have it easy in their bid for promotion
The Bairns are, unsurprisingly, one of the title favourites this season with Partick Thistle but their fellow League One side, Clyde, didn’t make it easy for their hosts – despite taking an early lead.
While Falkirk have some undoubted quality in their ranks, they will need to look a lot sharper than they did against the Bully Wee if they are to avoid a third consecutive season in the third tier.
Callumn Morrison’s signing should give them a real creative outlet and Lee Miller and David McCracken will be looking to Anton Dowds and Aidan Keena to get among the goals.
No fans? No problem
Both sides served up an entertaining 90 minutes of football at the Falkirk Stadium, unlike many of the games to have taken place since the return of competitive football without fans.
Despite both sides only having a couple of games under their belts, there were no half-measures as the two League One sides looked to take advantage of Kilmarnock’s woes and make a push to qualify for the last 16.
While there are the obvious financial implications for clubs, on the basis of tonight, fans won’t have to worry too much about the quality of football.
Falkirk need to speed up their search for a centre-back
Bairns boss Lee Miller spoke after the Dunfermline clash about his side’s pursuit of a central defender and it is clear they need to move quickly ahead of the league campaign getting started.
After pairing Ben Hall and Mark Durnan against the Bully Wee, the Bairns still lack that imposing defender who takes control of his defence.
There were a couple of shaky moments for the Bairns but they managed to avoid any major errors – but it is an area of the pitch they have needed strengthening in since before lockdown.