6 October 2012

Young Scots off to winning start

Scotland's Adam Hodge celebrates the opening goal.

Two second-half goals gave Scotland a deserved win over Wales in the teams' first fixture of the 2012 Victory Shield.

The Scots, now managed by Mark Wotte following last year's retirement of the long-serving Ross Mathie, impressed in a tight match in Aberdeen.

The game got off to a cagey start, with Wales looking the slightly better side early on. Harry Wilson had a shot well blocked by Robbie McCrorie in the Scotland goal, while at the other end, centre-back Shane Parry made a good sliding interception on Calvin Miller's cross.

The Tartan Army began to get themselves into the match, and local left-back Michael Kelly's free-kick in the 18th minute was brilliantly tipped over by the fingertips of Wales keeper Luke Pilling. Moments later, Aaron Scott's corner threatened to give Scotland the lead before Ioan Evans cleared just in time.

Later on in the half, McCrorie kept the Dragons at bay with a top-class save from a Joseff Morrell free-kick which bounced deep in the penalty area before the Rangers custodian quickly reacted to tip it out of play.

Ciaran Lafferty could have put Scotland ahead minutes later when Pilling made an awkward save from Miller's delivery into the box, but Lafferty fired over.

In the last few minutes before half-time, McCrorie kept out a volley from Lloyd Humphries - who was a little lucky to still be on the pitch after two wild challenges early on - and then a free-kick on the edge of the area from Wilson.

Scotland began the second half in impressive fashion. After Miller, Aidan Nesbitt and Lafferty all came close in a 42nd-minute game of 'pinball', the Tartan Army broke the deadlock a couple of minutes later. Miller's cross to the far post sent Pilling out of position, and Kilmarnock's Adam Hodge made the goalkeeper pay with a header into the net.

The captain's competitive streak got himself into the book on 54 minutes when Hodge made a late challenge on Morrell.

Wales were struggling for an equaliser, with Liverpool forward Wilson getting offside too often for his own good. In the 63rd minute, their task became even tougher. Humphries' slip gifted the ball to the excellent Aidan Nesbitt, who sliced open the Welsh defence with a pass to Celtic's Lafferty, who shot low past Pelling into the net.

Four minutes later, Pilling's second-half woes continued when he slipped while taking a goal kick and Lafferty easily tapped home, but the goal didn't count as the ball never cleared the penalty area.

Lafferty had a couple more chances to score his second goal, as he headed just past the post and had a close-range effort blocked by Pilling.

A two-goal victory for the Scots stands them in good stead for their next Victory Shield match, also at home, against Northern Ireland in three weeks time. After one round of matches, they and England are unsurprisingly the teams to beat.

SCOTLAND: McCrorie; Kelly, Breslin, Hodge, Wardrop; Scott, Nesbitt (Finnie), Petrie; Kiltie (Boyd), Lafferty, Miller (Spence).
SCORERS: Hodge 44, Lafferty 63.
Booked: Wardrop 39, Hodge 54.

WALES: Pilling; Harries, Evans, Parry, Smith; Humphries, Morrell, Menayese (D Thomas); Wilson, Lemonheigh-Evans (Penny), James (Edge).

TDTR Man of the Match: Robbie McCrorie (Scotland). The Rangers goalkeeper's quick reflexes helped him to make a number of important and brilliant saves in the first half.

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