Falkirk (0) 0 Kilmarnock (1) 3
CIS Cup Semi-Final, Fir Park, Motherwell, Jan 30th, 2007
Steven Naismith's wonderful hat-trick left Falkirk in despair. They simply had no answer or equivalent to the 20-year-old's potent combination of technique, persistence and power.Alex McLeish watched from the main stand at Fir Park, having selected Naismith in the pool for next week's Scotland B international against Finland. On this form, he now has 13 goals for the season, elevation to the full squad may well be next.
Kilmarnock may not yet have their hands on the trophy, but surely now they get Falkirk for keeps. This was their sixth successive victory over John Hughes's side, who failed to build upon a promising start. Their prized talent, Alan Gow, endured an evening of frustration.
Traffic congestion on the approaches to Motherwell forced a 15-minute delay to kick-off and allowed the pre-match tension to simmer a while longer in both dressing rooms. The jitters that are an intrinsic part of the semi-final experience were exhibited in long stretches of a committed yet disjointed first half.
Russell Latapy arrowed a diagonal free-kick on to the head of Jack Ross and the Falkirk captain's thumping header across goal was well clutched by Alan Combe. Then Vitor Lima seized upon a loose ball 25 yards out to whack a low shot that zipped just wide of the Kilmarnock goalkeeper's right-hand post as he stood static and concerned.
Naismith, though, began to signal his intent. He was played through the inside-left channel by Colin Nish but, having hared into the box, could only strike a bouncing shot that was comfortably gathered by Kasper Schmeichel. The combination between the Kilmarnock forwards, though, worked perfectly after 29 minutes. Nish flicked on a delivery from Peter Leven, catching the Falkirk defence square and exposed. Naismith's chest control primed the chance and he cracked a right-foot drive low and angled beyond Schmeichel. The Kilmarnock coaching staff burst on to the pitch from their technical area to bellow their delight.
There were, though, to be outbursts of a different nature between the benches before the interval. Frazer Wright was incensed at what he viewed as a dive from Carl Finnigan, Falkirk's recent attacking signing, and that was a perception shared by Jefferies and his assistant, Billy Brown.
Hughes and Brian Rice responded aggressively before the fourth official stepped in.
Kilmarnock had been forced into a first half change when Momo Sylla overstretched himself, with Grant Murray introduced to take over at right-back. They had rarely been been troubled following Murray's 33rd minute introduction until Combe sprang to the rescue with 12 minutes of the second half elapsed.
Ross dinked a teasing pass with the outside out his right foot to bisect the Kilmarnock centre-backs and send Finnigan in on goal. He had time for a touch to compose himself, but ultimately thumped in a shot with more power than precision as Combe stood strong to block at close range.
Almost immediately, that quality of that save was surpassed at the opposite end. Johnston and Nish worked together to feed Naismith and his hammer-blow of a right-foot attempt was brilliantly turned around his near post by Schmeichel.
It is clear Kasper has inherited more than a shock of blond hair from his old man's genetic stock. Peter's boy was, though, to be caught out with 19 minutes remaining as Naismith swooped decisively. The goalkeeper seemed to check out of an initial plan to charge out and intercept a long hoof upfield from Gordon Greer, the ball bouncing on the edge of the area.
Naismith, pressurised by Cedric Uras, managed a touch on his head to set up a right foot shot which he thumped into the net from 16 yards. (right).
Six minutes later he completed a splendid personal and team triumph. Bursting between Uras and Kenny Milne, Naismith was caught by the latter and Kenny Clark, the referee, pointed immediately to the penalty spot.
The finish was as emphatic as the scoreline.
Killie: Alan Combe, James Fowler, Fraser Wright, Momo Sylla, (34 min's for Grant Murray), Gordon Greer, Simon Ford, Steven Naismith, Rocco Quinn, (80 min's for Gary Wales), Colin Nish, Peter Leven, Allan Johnston, (83 min's for Locke).
Subs Not Used: Graeme Smith, Rhian Dodds
Steven Naismith's Post Match Comments... "It was probably the best game I've ever played, considering it was my first ever hat-trick for the first team. But I don't know where that 90 minutes came from.
"To get to a final at 20 is special and it will be great game for the club and the fans.
"The first one was a flick-on from Colin Nish and I saw Kasper Schmeichel with his legs wide open so I just hit it straight.
"I didn't know much about the second one - I just hit it and it ended up in the back of the net."
Jim Jefferies Post Match Comments... "It's another £2million on his fee (Naismith's) after that performance. But I think if someone offered me £5million then he still wouldn't go. He would want to play in the final.
"I'm sure we've got him to the end of the season and it's great for the club
"He was sensational and played at a different level.
"Just before he got his penalty I gave him a bit of a rollicking because he passed the ball back from the edge of the 18-yard box.
"I could tell he was on fire and I wanted him to take players on because he looked as if he had the beating of them.
"He was the match-winner in and old-fashioned cup tie."