Report courtesy of the Scottish Schools FA.
Scotland’s first Centenary Shield match of this year’s campaign finished in deadlock after an energetic tussle with Northern Ireland at Bayview Stadium. Bayview had been the setting last weekend for Sky Sports’ cameras as they featured the Fifers take on Scottish Division One champions elect Rangers. That match saw the visitors clinch victory from a last minute goal, but tonight it was the home side’s turn to notch with time running out, as a late Jai Quitongo strike – assisted by a large deflection – cancelled out Curtis Dempster’s opener for the visitors.
Scotland (sponsored by TSB) selected a 4-5-1 formation which seemed well suited to the greasy underfoot conditions caused by incessant rainfall in the Kingdom of Fife prior to kick-off. Ironman Scott Burns supplemented the energetic Michael Hardie and thoughtful Jamie Dishington in the middle of the park. This saw Scotland gain a foothold in the frantic early stages as the ball zipped around quickly on a surface which coped very well with the amount of water falling upon it.
A high level of effort and endeavour could be witnessed from both sides from the very first whistle. These matches have recently been characterised by early and late goals, so neither side was prepared to give an inch early on. This led to some meaty challenges, but the game was played in a sporting manner throughout, and was well handled by experienced Grade One whistler Callum Murray.
Northern Ireland had the first foray into the opposition area as early as the second minute. Persistent play from Curtis Dempster earned a corner on the right hand side. Ross Lavery’s right footed corner was headed clear by Kyle Chalmers, under pressure on the six yard line. The ball arrived at Lavery’s feet again, and this time he crossed dangerously with his left foot. Northern Irish centre-half flicked the in-swinging ball goalwards, but Chalmers was on hand again to block and clear to avert the danger.
Much of the play remained in the midfield area where both sides fought hard for possession of the ball. An excellent outlet for the Scots was left back Lewis Wilson, who was keen to maraud down the flank whenever offered the opportunity. After a quarter of an hour Wilson received a Hardie ball in his stride, beat two opponents and crossed for Scott Hynd on the six yard line. The crowd in the Main Stand rose to greet an opening goal, but the attempt was clutched on the goal-line by Kealan Mulcahy, the visitors’ custodian.
The Ulstermen responded by enjoying a patient spell of possession of their own, which was brought to an end by a challenge from James Yates which was deemed illegal by Mr Murray. The subsequent free-kick was fired over the bar, and it was Scotland’s turn to press, Dishington shooting past the post from 20 yards. Between times, the unfortunate Cameron Stewart had limped off for the visitors.
The huge central defender looked to be playing with an existing knock, given the heavy strapping on his right thigh.
Scotland sought to probe this vacancy in the heart of the Northern Irish defence, and an excellent weapon was the howitzer-like long throw of central defender Chalmers. After 25 minutes the big man launched the ball onto the head of Michael Hardie. Unfortunately for those of a navy blue persuasion, the Drumchapel High midfielder’s header ended up on the wrong side of the post.
A tight offside decision followed two minutes later to deny the lively Dempster the chance to run in on Scotland captain Chris Truesdale’s goal following a neat through-ball from Lavery. However, the big goalie’s skills were demonstated with 31 minutes on the clock as Lavery turned sharply and shot after a Gavin Whyte corner. Truesdale hurled himself to his left to carry out a sharp one-handed save, before Kieran Campbell was able to belt the ball clear.
The game still moved from end to end and five minutes later Jamie Henry demonstrated excellent pace and broke down the right. He tried to catch Mulcahy off guard, but his early strike went over the top, and into the one area of temporary terracing left over from Rangers’ visit. Almost straight from the resultant goal-kick, the men in green probed down the Scottish right. Truesdale again looked very sharp to sprawl across his six yard line to gather Adam Salley’s low driven cross. At this juncture Northern Ireland lost a second player to injury as Daniel Wilson limped off to be replaced by Andrew Hoey.
Again Northern Ireland had lost a defender, and Michael Hardie was desperate to make them pay on the stroke of half-time. After defending a corner the tireless midfielder made a 70 yard break on the right, but just over-hit his cross whilst seeking Hynd in the middle. This was the last action of the half, and Scotland would have gone in at half time pleased with the energy, endeavour and tempo in their play; whilst being perhaps a little disappointed that the score did not reflect the slight superiority they had enjoyed in the first period.