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JIMMY'S A LUCKY MAN; Pascali fluke gets Caldo up and running.

Byline: COLIN DUNCAN

KILMARNOCK 1 FALKIRK 0

JIMMY CALDERWOOD breathed a huge THIGH of relief last night as Manuel Pascali's lucky strike earned him his first victory as Kilmarnock boss.

The Italian midfielder sent last season's Scottish Cup finalists crashing out at the first hurdle with a priceless late strike at Rugby Park.

After Gavin Skelton had crashed an effort against the bar with seven minutes remaining a completely unaware Pascali was on hand to divert the rebound into the net off his thigh.

For all intents and purposes it looked like we were heading for a replay atWestfield tomorrow night as the 3378 supporters who bothered to turn up were forced to sit through 83 minutes of dirge as the SPL's bottom-two clubs served up an instantlyforgettable clash.

But out of the blue Kille struck at the death and earned themselves the right to host Inverness in the next round.

In a dramatic finale Falkirk appeared to have snatched an equaliser only to be denied when keeper Cammy Bell pulled off a stunning stop to denyVitor Lima.

Falkirk may be languishing at the foot of the SPL but they rolled up in Ayrshire full of confidence following a morale-boosting display at Celtic Park two days earlier.

A highly-encouraging 1-1 draw against Tony Mowbray's men suggested there is plenty fight left in Eddie May's team despite their league position.

Falkirk more than merited a point although unfortunately for boss May he was unable to keep faith with the same starting XI who performed so impressively in Glasgow.

New boys Colin Healy and Enoch Showunmi signed after the Cup deadline so were in eligible while Carl Finnigan, who was on target against Celtic, and skipper Darren Barr missed out due to suspension.

Veterans Jackie McNamara and Lee Bullen returned to the line-up while there was also recalls for Jack Compton and Pedro Moutinho.

Searching for his first victory since succeeding Jim Jefferies, new Killie gaffer made three changes from the side who were hammered 3-0 at home by Motherwell 48 hours earlier.

But none of them wereenforced as Allan Russell, Pascali and Conor Sammon were given the nod ahead ofMehdi Taouil, who dropped to the bench. Danny Invincibile and Mark Burchill missed out altogether.

With the two sides of the stadium behind either goal closed there was a real lack of atmosphere.

One win in 10 games has a detrimental effect on a attendances while the rescheduling of the tie, postponed earlier this month because of

the weather, to a Monday night hardly helped either.

For those who did bother to turn up there was precious little in the way of early excitement.

Given that both sides were allowed to take to the field wearing blue-and-white tops and white shorts, it was partly understandable.

Still, even taking into account the obvious colour clash some of the opening exchanges were pretty lamentable. There were half chances for McNamara at one end and Kevin Kyle at the other before the game burst into a state of semiconsciousness on the 25-minute mark.

For the first time in the contest Falkirk took advantage of Killie's tentativeness with Ryan Flynn bursting through the midfield and sending Compton clear through on goal. The Englishman had time to pick his spot and steady himself but he rushed his effort and blazed wildly over.

There was another let-off for Calderwood's men moments later when they failed to deal with Compton's corner.

Pele reacted quickest, thundering a half volley that was brilliantly tipped on to the bar by keeper Bell.

Killie's first real opening came in the 39th minute when Pascali rose highest to connect with Sammon's cross but the Italian failed to get enough purchase on his header to trouble Robert Olejnik.

Falkirk were presented with another tremendous opportunity to break the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when Killie failed to deal with yet another Compton corner.

Scott Arfield was allowed to flick on the set-piece at the near post and with the goal at his mercy, Pedro Moutinho took a fresh-air swipe and allowed Kille off the hook once again.

The second half began in pretty much the same sterile manner as the first with goalmouth action of any description thin on the ground.

Kyle did go close with a header which was deflected over in the 59th minute although it would be his final contribution. A virtual spectator throughout, the Killie skipper was hooked on the hour mark with Taouil taking his place.

Calderwood was forced to make another change shortly afterwards when Skelton, a Scottish Cup finalist with Gretna, replaced the injured FrazerWright.

The changes did little to alter the course of a contest which appeared to have 0-0 written all over it until a fortuitous late Pascali strike turned the match on its head.

If anything Falkirk had looked the more likely winners but with just seven minutes remaining Skelton pounced on a Hay corner to crash a stunning volley against the bar.

The rebound then careered off midfielder Pascali, who knew nothing about it, and spun agonisingly over the outstretched arm of Olejnik. It was hardly merited, but it's Killie who earned a fifth-round spot.

KILMARNOCK - Bell 7, Hamill 6, Hay 6, Fowler 6 (Owens 83, 2), Wright 6 (Skelton 66, 4), Ford 6, Bryson 5, Pascali 6, Russell 5, Sammon 6, Kyle 5 (Taouil 60, 4). Subs not used: Robinson, Kelly.

FALKIRK - Olejnik 6, McNamara 6, Twaddle 6, Pele 6, McLean 6, Lima 5, Arfield 6, Bullen 6, Moutinho 6, Flynn 6 (Marceta 77, 2), Compton 6 (O'Brien 67, 4). Subs not used: Andrews, Murdoch, Alston.

Referee: Mike Tumilty.

CAPTION(S):

PASC ACTION HERO: Pascali takes a sore one from Olejnik, above, then parties after his winner, left, while Bell denies Pele, below
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 19, 2010
Words:961
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