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FOR the second week in succession, the mercurial genius of Russell Latapy guided Falkirk to three points, the Bairns' home victory over bitter rivals Dunfermline taking them to the unfamiliar higher echelons of the SPL.


The former Hibs midfielder orchestrated play in the manner of a symphony conductor, just as had been the case in the win over Dundee United at Tannadice. Manager John Hughes, recognising that the Caribbean star is, sadly, not immortal, has now challenged the young midfielders at Falkirk to learn from Latapy's influence and to take over the mantle which he presently holds.

"Russell has great self-belief," enthused Yogi after the game, "he's always willing to help his team-mates and I keep telling the youngsters at the club to appreciate him and learn from him.

"When I went to Celtic as a player I made sure I learned from the great players who were there at the time and I keep stressing to the young lads here that they have to do the same.

"Russell is playing superbly just now but we're not a one-man band. I want guys like Patrick Cregg and Liam Craig to show me that they can take over from him when the time comes."

Cregg was equally outstanding in the Bairns midfield against the Pars, particularly during the first half, when Falkirk were a country mile ahead of Dunfermline in terms of possession, the Irishman's tenacious enthusiasm complementing the delicate touches of the Trinidad and Tobago legend.

For all the pretty pictures which the Bairns created as they passed the ball across the turf though, their only tangible reward at half-time was a headed goal from defender Darren Barr, the youngster's striker being assisted by a perfectly placed corner from - who else? - Latapy.

Remarkably, it was the visitors who had the best scoring chance of the first 45 minutes. Stephen Simmons released Mark Burchill only for the former Celtic front man to blast his effort high over the bar when a goal appeared inevitable.

A different pattern emerged after the interval as the deterioration in Falkirk's passing game coincided with the petrol gauge on the Latapy dashboard edging towards empty. Burchill again came close, squandering a chance to equalise when he headed over from close range.

Falkirk held on for a welcome home victory, something it had taken them nearly nine months to achieve last season.

"It's great to have maximum points and to be up near the top of the league," said a delighted Hughes.

"I'm disappointed we didn't score more goals in the first half. We were under pressure after the interval when our passing went astray, but our defence coped well and they'll take confidence from achieving a clean sheet.

"We started to regain our shape towards the end of the game and some of the keep-ball we played was great to watch."

Match-winner Barr was naturally ecstatic at getting his name on the score sheet, especially since he couldn't recall when he last hit the net.

"I don't think I've scored a goal since primary school," said Barr, "but the main thing was to record a home win at this early stage of proceedings, especially after last season when we didn't manage a victory in front of our own fans until April."

Pars boss Jim Leishman was disappointed at the outcome, stressing the need to bring in support for Burchill in the front line.

"Mark needs to have a big guy playing alongside him" said Leishman, "and that's something I'll be looking at.

He added: "Falkirk put us under the cosh early on but we had some great chances and I'm disappointed that we took nothing from the game."