John McGinn has probably had better weekends. After sitting in the Wembley stands wincing along with the Tartan Army as England inflicted a painful if predictable defeat on Scotland, he was determined that his role for Hibernian after flying back from international duty on Saturday morning wasn’t going to be reduced to that of spectator.
Admirably, the midfielder put himself forward for the starting line-up, only to be on the end of a hefty challenge from Falkirk’s Tom Taiwo that left him nursing his problematic ankle injury again and saw former Hibs man Taiwo dismissed midway through the first half. Falkirk felt aggrieved at the decision, and are considering an appeal after reviewing the footage.
But as if picking up the knock wasn’t bad enough for McGinn, the 10 men of Falkirk – so long besieged by the men in green and white – had the temerity to take the lead with a little over 10 minutes remaining, John Baird hooking home from a David McCracken knock-down.
But McGinn knows only one way to tackle adversity, and that is head-on. He dragged his team up the pitch and put a cross on Paul Hanlon’s head to score and at least salvage something from his own personal ‘auctor horribilis’.
“I got back into my flat about 3 o’clock so it wasn’t ideal but I got a decent enough sleep and I felt alright on Saturday,” McGinn said.
“It was a hectic day but I wanted to help the cause. It would have been a waste if I sat in the stand.
“I wouldn’t say I was 100 per cent but I was fit enough to play a part and I managed to squeeze in the 90 minutes.
“It was good experience to be with the [Scotland] squad. I was obviously disappointed not to be involved on Friday night but I respect the manager’s decision.
“There are a lot of really good players in the squad and I’m still young. I’ve got a lot of time on my hands.
“I was lucky enough to be there all week and I felt I trained well and learned well so there are more positives than negatives.
“Of course it was hammer blow after hammer blow every time a goal went in because they came at the wrong times and overall I felt we had the better chances in the game.”
McGinn’s sentiments about Scotland’s fortunes could equally apply to Hibs’ own on Saturday. Even before Taiwo received his marching orders the home side were in the ascendancy, and only a combination of their own wastefulness in front of goal and a heroic defensive performance from Peter Houston’s men denied them what would have been a deserved victory over the piece.
It was hard to grudge Falkirk their point though, and harder still to grudge the outstanding Baird his moment, even though plenty in the home stands doubtless did.
The striker was asked to patrol the right flank when his side were reduced to 10 men, and he set about the task with an almost demonic relish. He was spiky and niggly, drawing the ire of the home crowd on more than a few occasions after leaving a little bit extra on some challenges, but his work-rate was phenomenal.
The way he won the corner that eventually led to his goal was a microcosm of his performance, completing a lung-bursting run down the right before finding a touch of finesse to back-heel the ball off McGinn and behind.
“I seemed to find another couple of gears that I didn’t know I had as I ran down the line,” Baird said.
“I had to ask the linesman if it was a corner or a throw-in and when he said it was corner, I thought ‘Great I’ll get a rest here’.
“But then I scored and I ran away again so my wee heart-rate monitor was going through the roof!
“It was good to get a goal – especially at a ground where I have such good memories.”