Unlike south of the border, there’s not a huge amount of midweek football in Scotland during the winter months.
Given half a chance I’d probably plump for junior games if there was – unfortunately most clubs at that level lack floodlights and those that have them are actively discouraged from using them by some anachronistic SJFA rules.
All of which makes the SPFL Under 20 League a bit of a godsend. The sixteen team format, means there’s a decent programme of games each week, usually on Tuesdays.
I’ve taken in a few games this season, most recently at Riccarton Campus where I took a soaking a few weeks back when watching Hearts play Hamilton Accies.
Some clubs use their training grounds for matches, others rent other venues – Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium being particularly popular – while a few use their main stadium.
Falkirk fall into the latter category and it’s not too far from home, which made it a decent choice for this Tuesday night 6pm kick off.
Falkirk Stadium lies on the outskirts of town, but only about a mile and a half from Grahamston Station, the train being my mode of transport of choice for this trip.
Back in the day, Falkirk Fc were handily located right next to the station at Brockville Park, the site of which is now a Morrisons supermarket, while East Stirlingshire’s much missed Firs Park was also nearby.
I chose to walk it to the Stadium and back, but there seems to be plenty of buses along the route, which is the main road out to the industrial port of Grangemouth.
As far as new stadia go, the Falkirk Stadium is one of the better ones. Good views and ample legroom are the order of the day. If it has a drawback then it’s the fact that it’s three sided, but with a capacity around the 8,000 mark it’s more than sufficient.
For this Under 20 game, only the main stand was open and a couple of hundred people joined me in spurning the televised Man City v Barca game to see what the respective youngsters of Falkirk and Hibs could serve up.
The answer was a closely fought game played at a moderate pace featuring a couple of top notch goals.
Hibs drew first blood in an impressive start, Jason Cummings scoring within three minutes after an unselfish lay-off from over-age senior player Paul Heffernan.
The Edinburgh side could easily have added to their lead in a bright opening spell but were hit with the suckerpunch of a Luke Leahy equaliser before Ollie Durjaiye sent Falkirk in ahead at half time with an absolute beauty of a shot from long range.
Durojaiye’s robust style helped Falkirk to dominate the midfield for a spell, though as the game progressed he dropped back into the centre half berth he’s accustomed to at first team level and that allowed Hibs to regain the ascendency.
Recent loan signing from Arsenal, Daniel Boateng looked useful in the middle of the park for Hibs – big and strong but not bad with the ball to feet, but for me the star turn for the Hibees was the aforementioned Cummings.
The 18-year old was called up to the Scotland Under 19 squad in the wake of this game and it was not difficult to see why. His energy, movement and link up play gave the Falkirk defence plenty to think about all night.
With eleven minutes left he produced a second Hibs goal which gave them a deserved share of the points. It was beautifully executed – Cummings controlling a throughball with a wonderful first touch before driving the ball left footed past Falkirk keeper Bowman.
Along with the brilliant Durojaiye goal, Cummings second of the night made the trip worthwhile.
It surprises me that more people don’t take in Under 20 or reserve games, at least the ones that are played at night. They provide a great chance for supporters to check out the latest up and coming talent and are either free or very cheap to see.
There was no charge at all for this game and you can’t argue with that for value for money!
Falkirk: Bowman, Fulton, Chalmers (Nash 64), Durojaiye, Turnbull, Dick (Martin 62), Hogg, Small, Biabi (O’Hara 74), Blair, Leahy. Not used: McNab, Fairbanks
Hibernian: Grant, Black, Baptie, Smith (Martin 58), Maybury, Gardiner, McCaffrey (Beaton 58), Boateng, Cummings, Heffernan, Todd. Not used : Dunsmore, Wilson, Martyniuk, Hendry, Horne
Ref: Gavin Ross
Scoring: 0-1 Cummings, 1-1 Leahy, 2-1 Durojaiye, 2-2 Cummings
Attendance: 200 (est)
Programme: none – teamsheets available at no charge
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