Falkirk will never be forgotten by those old enough to remember the 1991 cup win – we edged past them 4-2 in a dramatic fourth round tie at Fir Park, with the Bairns coming within ten minutes or so of forcing a replay. They did get their revenge in knock out competition a few years later though, when they won 1-0 at Fir Park with a goal from a deflected clearance. Luc Nijholt blazed a penalty over the north terracing that night and we were out of the League Cup at the first hurdle. The last cup encounter was at Brockville in 1994. The first game was postponed due to the freezing conditions and the rescheduled fixture took place in front of around 4500 mid-week. Unfortunately the lights went out in the second half forcing the game to be abandoned – Falkirk generously handed out vouchers for free entry to the replay but fans of both sides utilised the easy to copy nature of the card and around 7000 squeezed in for the second attempt! A goal in each half from Alex Burns saw us through. Brockville was a classic Scottish ground but in today’s society there was no place for it’s crumbling terracing and frankly dangerous exits. It did make for a special atmosphere on mid-week cup nights though.
There have been some great clashes in the league as well. Going back to season 92/93 we were both fighting relegation and there were two memorable clashes at Fir Park. The visitors were one up until we took a quick throw – whilst the referee was admonishing one of their players – and Kirk raced through the static defence to score. Goalkeeper Tony Parks went mental and was sent off. Despite solid resistance from the ten men, we scored two late goals to record a vital win. Later in that season, a big crowd gathered for the penultimate game of the season. A win for us would relegate the visitors and ensure our safety whilst a Falkirk win would make it brown trouser time for both teams on the final day. McCart gave us the lead but Brian Rice levelled with a massive deflection. It looked like going to the last day until Dougie Arnott sneaked by his man and shot home to guarantee Premier League football for us.
Both sides had improved considerably by 1994/5 and we won a remarkable match 5-3 at Fir Park. We were 2-0 up and 3-2 down before grinding out the win. Tommy Coyne scored twice but missed two penalties! Billy Davies and an Arnott double completed the scoring for us. It was later in that season we made the astonishing decision to bid Stevie Kirk, Paul McGrillen AND £100,000 for Eddie May – cheers Alex – and naturally enough Kirkie came back to haunt us. In his return to Fir Park he scored a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw then he orchestrated (and of course, score in) a 3-0 demolition of us at Brockville.
There are other moments of inspiration in games between the teams – John Clark’s many free kicks, Joe McLaughlin’s own goal when we’d gone 73 games without scoring, Rab Shannon scoring and getting booked for destroying an advertising board on Boxing Day and hardest to believe of all, Jamie Dolan actually finding the top corner with a long shot.
Will Saturday’s game live long in the memory? Maybe, maybe not…but it seems likely that the tussles between sides this season will produce something special at some point.