Scottish Daily Mail

BLAZ­ING A TRAIL BRIAN MARJORIBAN­KS

McHugh in awe of his pal Baird’s hot streak

- at the Falkirk Sta­dium

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.

 ??  ?? Tre­ble tops: Baird drills in his third goal against Al­loa on Satur­day, lead­ing team-mate McHugh to hail him the best striker in the Cham­pi­onship
Tre­ble tops: Baird drills in his third goal against Al­loa on Satur­day, lead­ing team-mate McHugh to hail him the best striker in the Cham­pi­onship
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