Michael Fairbanks crucial shoot-out save was enough to see Falkirk scrape past Airdrie and into the Third Round of the SFA Youth Cup.
Late goals in both regulation and extra time ensured the teams went the distance in what was a very back and forth match at Falkirk Stadium.
A header from Airdrie’s Robert Wilson with minutes remaining cancelled out Liam Rowan’s spot-kick opener, whilst a last gasp extra time equaliser from Falkirk’s Scott Shepherd sent the game to penalties just when it was beginning to look like Kyle Richford’s header early on in additional time was going to be the difference.
It was a breathtaking end to a match that was slow in sparking into life. There were precious few clear goal scoring opportunities during a first half that saw both teams let down by their final pass on a number of occasions.
Falkirk started the brighter of the two; a well timed pass by Ryan Blair fed in Botti Biabi but his effort with the outside of his right foot slid harmlessly past Airdrie keeper Rohan Ferguson’s far post.
It looked as if Airdrie’s most likely source of a breakthrough would be via a setpiece. On two occasions in the first half the long throw of Richford connected with the head of centre back Wilson, but on both occasions he failed to direct the ball goalwards.
As the half wore on, Airdrie began enjoying extended periods of possession in the Falkirk half but didn’t look like creating anything until a clever through ball from Scott Stewart almost put striker Jamie Watson through on goal. Fairbanks, however, was quick off his line to avert the danger before making a further two blocks on the edge of his area as Airdrie pounced on the loose ball.
It appeared as though both teams had settled for going in goalless at the break. That is, until some slack Airdrie play on the edge of their own box allowed Thomas Grant to win back possession in a dangerous area and poke the ball through to Shepherd who dragged his effort wide from an angle six yards out. His frustration at passing up his first real sight of goal was evident as the teams made their way back down the tunnel at the interval.