Kilmarnock 0 Falkirk 1: Finnigan's strike helps Falkirk survive explosive finale

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The Independent Football

A Carl Finnigan header after 11 minutes gave Falkirk all three points in a Scottish Premier League match at Rugby Park which ended with a bang.

For the goal, the Bairns midfielder Scott Arfield delivered an inviting cross from the left for the Englishman to head past Alan Combe from eight yards out. For the explosive finale to an otherwise unremarkable match, the Killie defender, Frazer Wright, and Falkirk goalkeeper, Tim Krul, were sent off by the referee, Iain Brines, after a goalmouth mêle followed a good save by the Dutchman. When the dust had settled the Falkirk substitute keeper, Robert Olejnik, came on to see out a final few dramatic minutes of a game that his team perhaps deserved to win.

Before the match there was a minute's applause for the Motherwell captain, Phil O'Donnell, who died after collapsing at Fir Park during a match against Dundee United on Saturday. That poignant sixty seconds gave way to a positive start to the match, with both sides keen to gain an early advantage. The visitors took the lead with a simple enough goal.

Arfield drilled his cross into the Killie box from the left and Finnigan nipped ahead of Simon Ford to direct the ball past Combe from around eight yards out.

Despite Kilmarnock's enthusiasm in attack, there was an element of hesitancy in their defence and in the 25th minute, after Wright's poor attempt at a headed back-pass was intercepted by Finnigan, Combe needed two attempts to hold on to the Englishman's low drive from the edge of the box.

At the other end, the Killie midfielder David Fernandez found some space inside a packed Falkirk box but curled his shot, from 16 yards, high over the bar. In the 40th minute Finnigan gave an unmarked Michael Higdon the chance to score a second Falkirk goal with a fine cross from the left but the big striker headed over from 12 yards out.

The home side were booed off at the break, which may have inspired their manager, Jim Jefferies, to give Alan Morgan his debut at the start of the second half, as a replacement for Fernandez.

But Falkirk were first to threaten after the break, when Pedro Moutinho picked up an Arfield pass and drilled in a low shot from 16 yards which Combe did well to stop between his legs at the near post.

There was some encouragement for the home side in the 53rd minute when Danny Invincibile sent a searching drive from 25 yards towards the far corner of the net, Krul diving low to his right to beat the ball away.

Falkirk's talismanic midfielder, Russell Latapy, replaced Moutinho after 56 minutes, the veteran looking to provide the decisive pass for a crucial second. Moments later the Killie defender Jamie Hamill managed to blast Morgan's powerful corner wide from barely six yards out. Any goal-bound touch would surely have resulted in the equaliser.

As the game entered the last quarter it looked like Finnigan's first-half header would be enough to separate the sides. Killie introduced Allan Johnston for Mehdi Taouil and chased the equaliser for all their worth.

In the 90th minute, after Krul pulled off a fine save from Hamill, there was a huge confrontation on the goal-line, involving around half the players on the pitch. It ended with Wright and Krul being dismissed.

Kilmarnock (4-4-2): Combe; Hamill, Hay, F Wright, Ford; Invincibile, Fowler, Taouil (Johnston, 71); Wales; Nish, Fernandez (A Morgan, 46). Substitutes not used: Harpur (gk), Locke, Clancy, Flannigan, K Wright.

Falkirk (4-4-2): Krul; Ross, Holden, Barr, Scobbie; Cregg, Thomson, Arfield, Moutinho (Latapy, 55; Olejnik, 90); Finnigan (Riera, 80), Higdon. Substitutes not used: Bradley, Aafjes, Milne, Moffat.

Referee: I Brines (Scotland).