THAT'S MORE LIKE IT!
Working his way out of a corner
Scotland 1 Nigeria 2
After the thrashing we received in France, Berti Vogts and the rest of the country cast an anxious eye north to Pittodrie. Nigeria aren’t in the same class as the French but they are significantly better than us and another defeat looked likely. In the end, that defeat duly arrived but on this performance, things are definitely looking up.
For the first part of the game, we pinned the visitors back into their own half and to be honest, we should have taken a comfortable lead at this point. Of course, scoring our goals has always been our problem and nothing changed tonight. We did manage one goal – a free header from a corner – but despite carving out a few chances, we couldn’t find the net again. Paul Lambert forced a good save from the ‘keeper after a good passing move but Stephen Thompson found shooting from long range harder than tapping into the empty net at the weekend against Motherwell.
Either Nigeria realised they had to start playing or we realised we were playing and went into shock. Whatever, the visitors began to find holes in our defence with alarming ease and regularity. They found Douglas in good form though and he denied them on a couple of occasions before they finally found a way through. As often happens in these situations, when we eventually lost the goal, it was a defensive disaster. Kanu was effectively crowded out in the box but Stephen Crainey inexplicably decided to half-heartedly pass the ball across the face of his own goal. It evaded the group of Scottish defenders and fell to a Nigerian with an unpronounceable name who slipped the ball under Douglas to level the scores at half time.
The second half saw a few substitutions but Scotland continued to perform well. There were chances at either end but another stupid defence lapse killed us. Okay, the move started with a sublime sixty-yard pass that sliced our defence in two, but it was the basic mistake that led to the goal. The same unpronounceable striker who scored in the first half was made a run from the middle of the Scottish half to the middle of the Scottish box almost completely unnoticed. He was only spotted when he was soaring through the air – reminiscent of an eagle, ironically enough – but by then it was way too late and his powerful header gave Douglas no chance.
1st cap at last
We fought back bravely and missed a few decent chances to equalise but it wasn’t to be. However, it should be remembered that this was just another friendly and the result wasn’t important. What was important was the performance – and given the applause that rained down on the young Scots at full time, the crowd were more than satisfied with what they had seen.
Kevin McNaughton made a mockery of any nerves he allegedly had before the France game by rampaging up and down the right wing. Stockdale behind him was reasonably solid apart from one hideous mistake that almost made people forget about Crainey’s gaff. Further up the park, Stewart showed a lot of promise and, unusually in Scots these days, a reasonable amount of flair and creativity. Will he progress while playing for Man Utd reserves though? A definite concern for Herr Berti.
Overall, we have made a step forward. Not a big step admittedly but we are definitely going in the right direction. There is still a long way to go before the results begin to mean something and for tonight at least, we can enjoy the feeling of increased confidence.
Scotland: Douglas, Stockdale, Weir, Dailly, Crainey, McNaughton, Williams, Lambert, Gemmill, McCann, Thompson.
Subs: Gary Caldwell, Davidson, Johnston, Alexander, Stewart, Crawford, O'Connor, Ross, Combe, Paul Gallacher.
Nigeria: Ejide, Sodje, Yobo, Okoronkwo, Christopher, Okocha, Ejiofor, Utaka, Nwankwo Kanu, Aghahowa, Ogbeche.
Subs: Bankole, Eze, Ifejiagwa, Kaku, Mancha, Akwuegbu, Ugali, Adepoju, Lkedia, Odemwingie, Ldaehor.
Referee: Tom Henning Ovrebo (Norway)