FALKIRK 3 GRETNA 0
John ONeil and Scott MacKenzie were injury victims for the Bells Cup 3rd Round match and were replaced by Ryan McStay and Neil Scally. Allan Ferguson was preferred to Darren Hill in goal. New signing, Daniel McBreen, was listed as a substitute.
As usual, the opposing side had ex-Falkirk men on display, Jamie McQuilken and Kenny Deuchar, the men in question.
The match had an interesting start in the first minute as McStay, running clear, chased a hopeful ball through the middle only to be tripped. Hugh Dallas, to the disgust of the home support, signalled the clash was accidental.
Gretna were first to signal their intentions as Skelton warmed Fergusons hands with a fine strike from the edge of the box. At the other end, Irons and Aitken collided as they went to clear but Thomson couldnt direct his shot on target.
Baldecchino had two efforts go over the top as the Falkirk defending looked sloppy before Scally replied in 21 minutes with a fine left-foot strike which Mathieson held at the second attempt after Lawrie and Latapy had combined well.
Gretna were still causing problems and two minutes later Ferguson failed to cut-out a cross ball which Skelton almost managed to turn home. Bingham left the field in 28 minutes for treatment to a head-knock and he watched Latapy send in another 20 yarder which Mathieson didnt look comfortable with.
Duffy began to make his mark on the game and in 33 minutes, following a wonderful run down the right where he skipped past three defenders, the youngster set up Nicholls whose powerful drive was deflected wide.
Andy Smith was then surprisingly substituted to allow Deuchar to enter the fray and the young striker must have looked on in horror as Gretna gave away the opening goal a minute later. Irons struggled to get to a long ball out of defence and clearly passed back to Mathieson. As the referee blew for the infringement the keeper kicked the ball away in disgust and was yellow carded. With the whole Gretna defence encamped on the goal-line, Scally neatly touched the free-kick to Russell Latapy and the little midfielder blasted the ball through a gap and into the net.
Four minutes from the break, Nicholls swept a low ball across goal and Andy Thomson was inches away from connecting to make it 2-0.
With the last move of the half, Gretna came within a whisker of equalising. Deuchar appeared to foul Campbell as he jumped for a high ball but the substitute was allowed to run on and he clashed with James on the edge of the box. Referee Dallas signalled a direct free-kick which Baldacchino cheekily took quickly but the alert Ferguson scrambled across the full width of the goal to make a brilliant save at the far post.
Half-time: Falkirk 1 Gretna 0
The visitors made a spirited start to the second-half, forcing two corners in the opening minutes but it was Falkirk who threw away a golden chance in 50 minutes. Thomson burst clear up the right and as he broke into the box he passed the ball behind Latapy and the attack broke down.
Falkirk were turning the screw and Duffy made a brilliant dash up the left leaving players in his wake before forcing Mathieson to turn his powerful drive behind for a corner.
The pressure paid off in 62 minutes but again Gretna shot themselves in the foot. Mark Birch tried to beat Latapy on the halfway line and was robbed by the Trinidadian who proceeded to release Andy Thomson with a brilliantly timed pass. The number 9 drew Mathieson, rounded him, and squeezed the ball home from a tight angle. The Falkirk fans were on their feet to acclaim what was a top class finish.
Nicholls was replaced by McAnespie in 65 minutes and six minutes later McStay had a great drive deflected wide as Gretna looked to be wilting under the Westfield lights. The substitute then had his own drive saved by Mathieson as the keeper worked overtime to keep the score down.
73 minutes and the goal of the game. Darryl Duffy powered his way up the right hand side and raced into the box before smashing an unsaveable drive low into the far corner of the net for a terrific strike. No wonder he was mobbed by his enthusiastic team-mates. A great goal.
Yogi saw that as the chance to rest the deadly duo of Thomson and Duffy who were replaced by Pedro Moutinho and Daniel McBreen.
McBreen almost scored with his first touch, breaking clear of a tiring defence but his lack of match fitness was apparent as he hit the ball too far in front of himself and Mathieson collected easily.
Deuchar brought out a fine save from Ferguson in 85 minutes and McAnespie did like wise to Mathieson, swerving a shot round the keeper which brought out a fingertip save.
With three minutes remaining, the unlucky Moutinho seemed destined never to score as he danced round two defenders, his effort blocked on the six-yard line.
Full-time: Falkirk 3 Gretna 0
Falkirk: Ferguson; Lawrie, McPherson, Scally, Campbell, James, McStay, Nicholls (McAnespie 65), Thomson (Moutinho 74), Latapy, Duffy (McBreen 74). Not Used : Hill (GK), Hughes.
Gretna: Mathieson; Birch, McQuilken, Lennon (Galloway 57), Aitken, Irons, Baldecchino, McGuffie, Smith (Deuchar 36), Bingham, Skelton (Wake 65). Not Used : Little (GK), Gordon
Referee: Hugh Dallas