BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
NATHAN AUSTIN insists he will be ready to fill the void left by in-form John Baird as Falkirk prepare for their “biggest game of the season”.
The Bairns travel to Morton on Saturday knowing that a precious victory will see them leapfrog Dundee United in to second place, with the Tannadice outfit otherwise engaged in the Irn-Bru Cup semi-final.
However, boss Peter Houston has confirmed Falkirk are likely to be without their top-scorer after Baird picked up a hamstring injury during their 3-0 win over United last weekend.
Austin was brought on as a replacement for the diminutive striker and terrorised the Terrors, tormenting their ragged back-line and winning a penalty during an eye-catching cameo – with Houston later describing him as “like Bambi on Ice”.
Austin, a summer signing from East Fife, recognises that he is raw and has plenty to learn, but is adamant he can step up to the plate at Cappielow.
He smiled: “I’m gutted for Bairdy, but we are a team here and if someone needs to step up then they will. It is a huge game, we can go second with a win, and if the gaffer calls on me I’ll be ready.
“This is the biggest game of the season. We can go second in the league, put pressure on Dundee United and also say to Hibs ‘we are not going to lie down and just let you win the league’.
“Bambi on Ice? I’ve always been like that. I think my legs are too long for my body!
“That’s been the way I’ve always played. Sometimes I don’t seem in total control of the ball, but I put defenders under pressure and threaten in behind. I’ve played in League 2 and you need to be raw and physical.
“I know myself that I’m not the finished article and hopefully the more games I get, and the better I do in training, I’ll improve. But I feel I have all the tools to do well in this division and I know it’s up to me to prove that.”
Austin scored 43 goals in two seasons at Bayview, having thrived after making the step up from local Junior outfit Leven United.
He admits the step up to full-time football has been eye-opening, however he lavished praise on the impact fellow strikers Baird and Lee Miller have already had on his game.
He continued: “Bairdy and Lee Miller are very different but link up so well. Lee is great in the air and can score goals, whereas I love to watch Bairdy’s movement – he is so clever in the way he exploits space and gets in behind, which is what I like to do.
“I’ve learned a lot from them already and it’s invaluable having them to learn from.”
Austin’s delight at being back in the first-team picture is only accentuated by the injury woes that threatened to derail his campaign.
A persistent hamstring complaint saw him miss three months of action, making his comeback as a substitute against Dunfermline on February 4.
He added: “It’s been a really frustrating season for me with injuries. I’ve had a recurrence of a hamstring injury three times – every time I got back fit, it went again.
“The worst thing about it is the fact it has never happened before – I’ve never really had injuries. It has been hugely annoying.
“But the club have done right by me, I’ve seen a specialist and we’ve got it sorted. Hopefully I’m back for good.”