Scottish Daily Mail
BLAZING A TRAIL BRIAN MARJORIBANKS
McHugh in awe of his pal Baird’s hot streak
On the outskirts of grangemouth, it’s not just the oil refinery stacks that are smoking. In demolishing alloa on Saturday with a scoreline that could easily have reached double figures, in-form Falkirk made it 15 goals in their last four games to move within a point of second-placed Hibs.
Peter Houston’s side, who have played one more game than their Easter Road rivals, are on fire right now, with their only league losses this season being extremely contentious ones against the top two of Rangers and Hibs.
against the remainder of the Championship, however, they are a cut above and with an eight-point cushion and a game in hand over fourth-placed Morton, the Bairns look destined for a place in the endof-season play-offs.
In hat-trick hero John Baird, who started Saturday’s game with 99 career league goals, they possess a man team-mate Bob McHugh believes is currently the hottest in the division.
Baird is just three goals behind Rangers penalty king Martyn Waghorn’s league tally and two in front of Hibs’ Jason Cummings. But with eight goals in four games, the former Raith and Queen of the South man’s presence in the side gives Falkirk all the hope they need that they can take on anyone in their quest to get back to the Premiership.
‘John is the hottest striker in the league right now,’ said McHugh.
‘He is absolutely on fire. That’s eight goals in his last four games. He is flying. Every time John touches the ball, it goes in the net.
‘as a striker, you do get spells like that and it’s brilliant for us. I knew before I came here that John was a good player and what I’ve seen since only confirms that. I don’t think a lot of defences will fancy facing us this season.
‘But as well as his goals, John is an enjoyable guy to play alongside, a real team player. and if he ever does start to struggle, my job is to make sure I chip in with a few goals.’
alloa were finished before halftime thanks to the Baird show. For his first, the 30-year-old showed great footwork in taking a threaded through ball by the impressive Mark Kerr before dinking it over his Estonian marker, Mikk Reintam, and cracking an emphatically shot past Wasps keeper andy Mcneil.
His second came after Craig Sibbald’s shot was blocked by Kyle Mcausland. Baird was quickest to pounce on the loose ball and he evaded a desperate challenge by Reintam before drilling the ball into the bottom-right corner.
Baird’s hat-trick was completed a minute before the break when alloa failed to clear a corner and the lethal striker fired home from 12 yards.
It got worse for danny lennon’s men after the break when McHugh cleverly diverted a fine cross from luke leahy past Mcneil to make it 4-0. and the team from the Wee County saw their miserable afternoon completed when leftback leahy looped a fine header over the poorly-positioned Mcneil after a right-wing cross from Falkirk substitute Ryan Sinnamon.
alloa boss lennon bemoaned his side’s worst display of the season after a loss that left them five points adrift of second bottom dumbarton. Bairns boss Houston, though, was far happier. He admits his team are now in a position to look up the table at Rangers and Hibs, even if he concedes it will be a huge challenge to compete long-term with the division’s goliaths, given their superior resources.
But former Motherwell striker McHugh certainly believes the Bairns are a match for anyone over 90 minutes, given a controversial free-kick at Ibrox and a dodgy penalty call at home to Hibs cost them results against the big two.
‘We are happy to stay under the radar and stay up with Rangers and Hibs because we believe we can beat them on our day,’ he said.
‘We go to Hibs early next month, then we’ve got Rangers to come here the following week. We want to keep our good run going.
‘The two games we have played against Rangers and Hibs this season we have lost, but we have been unlucky both times. We’ve had bad decisions go against us.
‘That rankled and we’ve felt hard done to but we’ve just got on with it. Both matches were so close that, if we get the decisions in our favour next time, then maybe we can get the victory.
‘On a personal level, I’m just delighted to be back in the team and scoring after being out for a couple of months with injury. This is a great team to play in because we create so many chances and there are goals to be had every week.’
FALKIRK (4-2-3-1): Rogers; Muirhead, Watson (Sinnamon 75), Grant, Leahy; Vaulks, Kerr; McHugh, Alston (Smith 69), Sibbald (Blair 79); Baird. Subs not used: Tokarczyk, McCracken, Miller, Cooper. Booked: None. ALLOA ATHLETIC (4-4-1-1): McNeil; Williams (Hetherington 61), Reintam, McAusland, Hill; Doyle, Holmes, O’Brien (Hynd 75), McManus; R Crawford (Hardie 75); Chopra. Subs not used: D Crawford, Paun, Hoggan, Wilson. Booked: Doyle, Hill, Hetherington. Referee: Kevin Clancy. Attendance: 3,550.