Wright blooms for Kilmarnock

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The Independent Online
Kilmarnock 1 Falkirk 0

The strike that won the Scottish Cup was half hit, but the celebrations were full blown. Thousands of supporters choked the streets of Kilmarnock on Saturday night to welcome home their heroes. They had waited 68 years to watch an open-top bus inch its way down John Finney Street and they were determined to savour the moment.

The unofficial club song might be Paper Roses, but there was nothing artificial about this occasion. This game proved conclusively that there is life in the absence of Rangers and Celtic as 50,000 people packed Ibrox without any undercurrent of bigotry or menace. The supporters were there to bask in the sun and enjoy the day. Even the Falkirk supporters waited at the end to applaud the winners on their lap of honour.

Bobby Williamson, the Kilmarnock manager, will be elevated to cult status after barely six months in the job. He replaced Alex Totten, who was occupying the opposition dug-out, and a mark of the respect Williamson has for his former gaffer was that, when the final whistle blew, he made his way first to Totten to offer a consoling handshake.

"They spoke about our last Cup final for 40 years so it would be nice to think this day will be remembered for some time," Williamson said. "We can think about Europe when it comes. Today was all about the players and supporters."

Paul Wright's reactions created the difference between the sides when the striker turned quickly on to a loose ball after a corner and struck from six yards. But he admitted that the strike was not his best.

"I didn't hit the ball well. As it came to me I didn't manage to get a good contact, but those are the ones that usually go in. It wasn't the best goal of my career, but it was the most important and the most satisfying."

Like his manager, Wright embraced Totten at the end and said: "I wanted to speak to Alex, who is a friend as well as a former manager. I've scored more goals and played in more games for that man than anybody. I told him I was sorry for scoring the goal."

The game was never a classic, with a collection of journeyman players appearing, at times, to be content simply to be there on a day that was, for most of them, a high point of their careers. Kilmarnock dominated the first half then Falkirk, driven by Andy Gray, came back looking for an equaliser. Although Neil Oliver put the ball in the net with five minutes remaining, his effort was cancelled out by a linesman's flag raised for offside.

The hope for both clubs will be that a percentage of the supporters from Saturday can be attracted to League games for the new season, and that both teams can improve from the experience of being involved in the showpiece of Scottish football.

Goal: Wright (20) 1-0.

Kilmarnock (4-4-2): Lekovic; MacPherson, McGowne, Montgomerie, Kerr; Bagen (Mitchell, 88), Holt, Reilly, Burke; Wright (Henry, 77), McIntyre (Brown, 81).

Falkirk (3-5-2): Nelson; Oliver, Gray, James; McGowan, McAllister, McKenzie, Hagen, Seaton; Crabbe (Craig, 77), McGrillen (Fellner, 63). Substitute not used: Mathers (gk).

Referee: H Dallas (Motherwell).

Bookings: Kilmarnock: Kerr, Wright. Falkirk: Gray, Crabbe.

Man of the match: Gray.

Attendance: 48,953.

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