BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
FALKIRK have been dealt a hammer blow ahead of their mouth-watering clash against Morton after in-form John Baird was ruled out with a hamstring strain.
The 31-year-old took his tally for the campaign to 10 on Saturday when he opened the scoring in the Bairns’ 3-0 win over Dundee United – his fourth goal in three games.
However, his afternoon lasted just 39 minutes, with Baird limping off to be replaced by Nathan Austin.
Falkirk boss Peter Houston last night heaved a sigh of relief that the prolific front-man has not suffered a tear, however he is still expected to sit out the trip to Cappielow on Saturday – a fixture that will see the winner leapfrog United into second spot.
Houston said: “Bairdy is feeling a lot better and wanted to train, but there’s no way he is ready for that.
“The knock has settled down and we are relieved it is not a tear. Him and Mark Kerr did some light running on Tuesday but, as things stand, I think Saturday will come too soon.
“That’s disappointing because Bairdy is on a good goalscoring run. But you can’t legislate for things like that, every team gets injuries and we just need to cope and adapt.
“Big [Nathan] Austin has been desperate for his chance and it could be a good opportunity for him to stake his claim.”
And Houston has no doubt Austin is destined for stardom if he can iron out his rough edges and continue to progress at the Falkirk Stadium.
He joined the club from East Fife last summer – having scored 43 goals in three seasons for the Bayview outfit following his step up from Junior outfit Leven United – but has seen his maiden campaign in full-time football disrupted by three hamstring injuries.
However, he displayed his raw pace and power during his cameo against United, winning a second half penalty, and Houston believes he will go on to bigger things than Falkirk if he is willing to put in the work.
Houston added: “Nathan isn’t technically perfect – but you ask any defender that plays against, they hate it. He is strong, quick and can score goals.
“He’s exciting, but he’s only exciting if he continues to go about things the right way. He is raw, but he still is a young man and we are working hard with him.
“He is a boy who is still learning and he has a way to go before he is too good for Falkirk – to put it that way – because there will come a time when, if he continues to progress, he will be able to go on from here.”