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FOOTBALL: GAFFER-IN-BOOTS COYLE LEADS FROM FRONT; ALLOA ATHLETIC ..........0 FALKIRK .....................2.

Byline: Colleen PATERSON at Recreation Park

ALLOA ATHLETIC ..........0 FALKIRK .....................2 FLYING Falkirk eased into the last eight with second-half goals from star turns Owen Coyle and Collin Samuel.

Almost the width of the First Division separates these sides but Alloa held their own for more than 50 minutes before caving in.

Caretaker coach Coyle led by example by slotting the first and later set up Samuel for the clincher.

Falkirk were expected to win this tie with plenty to spare but Alloa fought like tigers from the first whistle and it took the Bairns 12 minutes to create their first chance.

Samuel eased away from Richard Walker down the left flank and whipped the ball into the box for Coyle but the veteran hitman was denied a crack at goal by the head of Andy Seaton.

Trinidadian Samuel was at it again a couple of minutes later when he combined with John Henry to pick out Coyle on the bye-line but this time Craig Valentine slid in to take the ball away from his feet.

Alloa were holding their own but Falkirk had a goal disallowed after 25 minutes. Samuel lofted the ball high into the area for Lee Miller to direct his header behind keeper Derek Soutar but as he started to celebrate he saw an offside flag.

Alloa almost snatched the lead three minutes later.

Ian Little's through ball was intercepted by John Hughes who directed the ball back to keeper Allan Ferguson.

The pass put the big stopper in trouble and when the ball broke to Scott Crabbe it looked as though he would curl home into an empty net.

Unfortunately for Terry Christie's men the former Falkirk captain sent his effort just inches wide from about 30 yards.

Five minutes later Little rose above David Nicholls but directed his header wide.

Clearcut chances were few and far between but when Jamie McQuilken served one up on a plate for Coyle, Soutar was there with a pointblank save to block the header.

With eight minutes of the first half remaining Mark Kerr decided to try his luck from 20 yards but his effort soared well over the bar.

The punters must have hoped their sides would get a half-time roasting and come out after the turnaround to treat them to a rip-roaring contest for the remaining 45 minutes. It was more of the same though before Falkirk finally broke the deadlock in 52 minutes.

Hughes nodded Gus MacPherson's corner on for Coyle to get his name on the scoresheet with a close-range header.

The Bairns could have doubled their advantage seven minutes later when Miller sent in a beautiful cross from the right but Henry hooked his first- time effort agonisingly wide.

Alloa hadn't given up the fight and after 60 minutes their fans were screaming for a penalty when Ferguson hauled Ross Hamilton to the ground but the foul was outside the box and the keeper was lucky to get away with a yellow card.

Seaton stepped up to take the resultant free-kick but Scott McKenzie was in the right place to clear the danger.

It was Alloa's last realistic chance and Falkirk sealed their place in the quarter-finals four minutes later.

Coyle was involved again, taking a touch before threading through to Samuel who ran into the area before slotting home.

To be fair to Alloa they didn't throw the towel and when Hamilton eased away from McQuilken it looked like he could cause problems but Ferguson was more than equal to his cross.

Falkirk should have made it three in 77 minutes when Coyle sent a dangerous ball to the back post for the incoming Samuel.

Just as he was about to pull the trigger Soutar grabbed the ball from his feet.

But the Bairns had done enough to make tomorrow's draw.

REF WATCH ++ REF WATCH

JOHN UNDERHILL kept a tight lid on things throughout. He rightly awarded a free- kick outside the box after a foul by Allan Ferguson on Ross Hamilton despite pressure from home fans to give a penalty. Rating: 6/10.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 23, 2003
Words:682
Previous Article:FOOTBALL: VICTIMS OF HIT AND RON De Boer sinks plucky Ayr with late clincher; AYR UTD .................0 RANGERS ................1.
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