Falkirk: Second place is huge benefit for play-off, says Houston

By Kenny CrawfordBBC Scotland
Falkirk beat St Mirren 3-2 on Saturday
Falkirk are six points ahead of Hibs but have played two more games than their rivals

Manager Peter Houston says avoiding Raith Rovers in a Premiership play-off quarter-final is a key factor in Falkirk's desire to remain second.

Rovers, in fourth place, have won seven of their past 10 Championship matches.

Falkirk can go nine points clear of nearest rivals Hibernian if they win at Easter Road on Tuesday.

"Raith Rovers are a very difficult team to play against and whose confidence is sky high after their recent results," Houston told BBC Scotland.

"It would be a huge benefit for a club with the resources we have to finish in second place.

"I spoke to Will Vaulks, who was here when Falkirk played Queen of the South in 2014 in a third and fourth-place play-off over two games and won.

"Then they went into the Hamilton Accies fixture and Will said that even in the first leg their legs were starting to fall off them.

"They had a small squad and they had been having to reach a peak all the time.

"A freshness to players is really, really important and two mentally and physically tough fixtures against Raith Rovers would be better avoided."

Falkirk drew 1-1 on their last visit to Easter Road
Falkirk have not beaten Hibs in the league this season

Houston, whose side have drawn twice and lost once already against Hibs this season, admits it was a "pleasant surprise" to discover the Edinburgh club had lost to relegated Alloa Athletic on Saturday.

But the Bairns boss expects a difficult test at Easter Road.

"One thing Hibs will be is up for the game, because they have disappointed themselves and their supporters probably by losing at Alloa," he said.

"It makes them much more dangerous to us in many ways, because they will be desperate to avenge what was a poor performance and who better to take it out on than their rivals for that second spot.

"I think Hibs will come out with all guns blazing. It will be more like a cup tie than a normal league match between two teams trying to get that second place."

Alston future?

Blair Alston scored a last-minute winner for Falkirk against St Mirren at the weekend, taking his tally for the season to 11 goals.

The midfielder is out of contract in the summer, but Houston has not given up hope of keeping the 24-year-old, who has been approached by St Johnstone.

"The St Johnstone thing has not been followed up," he explained.

"I've heard there was interest from a couple of other Premiership teams. But, having asked Blair as recently as last week if anything was happening, and he said that not a thing had [happened].

"I'd like him to still be available for me next season. It's a long shot because he's sort of got it in his head that he'd like to play in the higher division.

"We might still be able to give him that. What comes with promotion is being able to budget a little bit higher."

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