Scottish Daily Mail
Sibbald strike has Bairns on Hampden trail
THE f amous ol d clock behind the goal did not miss a beat, but for fans of Falkirk, there is now a sense of going back in time to 1957.
On a windy night at Palmerston, the calmness of teenager Craig Sibbald in front of goal proved pivotal in putting the visitors on course for the last four.
With at least o ne o t her non-Premiership side sure to join them in the hat — and a cup winning manager l i ke Peter Houston in the dug-out — Bairns fans of all vintages now have boundless reasons to believe that this could be their year.
It was not a classic but only the most uncharitable Queens fan would dispute that their side were second best over the piece.
Houston’s side rode their luck at times but the bulk of the pieces of quality i n the contest were produced by them, none more so than Sibbald’s tidy goal.
Separated in the middle of the Championship table only by goal difference, this appeared to be the hardest of the weekend’s Scottish Cup quarter-finals to call.
With the scalp of holders St Johnstone on the Palmerston sideboard Jamie Fowler’s Queens side fancied their chances of progressing at the first time of asking.
Falkirk may have impressed in their league draw with Rangers a week ago but they made the trip south without John Baird and Mark Kerr due to the pair being cup-tied.
A vicious swirling wind proved troublesome for both keepers initially with route one football uncharacteristically in vogue for both teams.
The Bairns were the first side to grasp that this was very much a night for keeping the ball wellacquainted with the green stuff. Tom Taiwo claimed the first effort on goal 14 minutes in after a cohesive passing move although Zander Clark in the Queens goal was not unduly troubled.
Iain Russell’s first venture into Falkirk’s penalty box came with a permit to tip-toe his way to the byline. His cut-back was destined for Michael Paton’s left boot only for David McCracken to make a timely interception.
Despite the blustery conditions, a genuinely decent game of football threatened to break out. David Smith’s intelligent run across the Queens box ended in a clever reverse shot that Clark only held at the second attempt. Then, from Sibbald’s in-swinging corner, Queens passed up three opportunities to clear their lines. Andy Dowie’s header was the best of a bad lot, but Rory Loy’s volley from 10 yards was high and wide.
Falkirk had been that one degree sharper than the Doonhamers from the outset and it was hard to begrudge them the lead which they fashioned on 35 minutes.
Luke Leahy’s s urge f r om left-back to left-wing was rewarded with a pass whilst in space. He didn’t waste the opportunity — a perfectly drilled cross doing the donkey work. Sibbald’s headed finish from eight yards belied his teenage years.
Queens were ponderous. When Gavin Reilly hit the byline with the next meaningful move, he had multiple options in the middle. To his manager’s dismay, though, his meek cross was gather by Jamie MacDonald’s outstretched arms.
Fowler’s side at least re-started the game with a greater sense of purpose. They were a little overanxious, however, with Paton’s endeavours down the flank hindered by an impatient crowd.
Queens did their utmost to make Grant rue that miss. From Ian McShane’s corner, Russell somehow fresh-aired his shot.
Paton delivered a fine cross from the left but Gavin Reilly failed to guide it onto the target with his head. Local hero Danny Carmichael was sprung from the bench to replace the stricken Paul Burns although, by that stage, the t empo of t he c ontest was unrelenting and difficult to adjust to.
In time, he made a telling contribution, though. His nimble feet and pace down the right preceded t he kind of cross Russell had been starved of all night.
The striker’s volley was on target, but downward and into the turf. With the pace taken off the ball, MacDonald held it tight to his jersey.
Chris Mitchell and Aidan Smith were introduced for Queens with Mark Durnam and Reilly making way — the latter’s final contribution being another tame header which MacDonald watched float harmlessly over his bar.
Mitchell’s error handed Blair Alston the chance to put the game to bed, but indecision on the Falkirk man’s part made for an uncomfortable cl osing nine minutes for the travelling fans.
They needn’t have worried. For Falkirk, dreams of a third Scottish Cup triumph are very much alive and kicking on to Hampden.
The only cloud on a near perfect night for the Bairns was the sight of Leahy being stretchered off near the end — the defender being kicked in the head by the flying boot of team-mate Grant.