Any lingering doubts over Kris Boyd's goalscoring ability were banished when the Scotland striker claimed the only goal of the game in tonight's friendly victory over South Africa at Pittodrie. A lacklustre start to the season by the Rangers forward had been well-documented, before he ended his mini goal-famine during last week's 7-2 win over Falkirk in the SPL. That goal was not enough to force him into manager Alex McLeish's starting line-up, but Boyd answered his critics yet again when he came off the bench to provide one of the few highlights of an otherwise drab match. His 71st-minute goal earned the Scots their first friendly win at home since the 4-1 victory against Trinidad & Tobago at Easter Road in 2004 - and provided a confidence boost for next month's EURO2008 qualifying double-header against Lithuania and France.
McLeish's decision to rest experienced players such as Barry Ferguson, Lee McCulloch, David Weir, Paul Hartley and Gary Naysmith allowed him the opportunity to experiment with his squad. Derby's Jay McEveley earned his first cap at left-back, while Alan Hutton made his first start for Scotland on the other flank. The visit of the South Africans also proved to be a worthwhile exercise for James McFadden, deprived of international football because of a broken foot since last October's visit to the Ukraine. However, it was was Carlos Alberto Parreira's men - rated 7-1 by the bookies - who looked worthy of a punt early on. Sibusiso Zuma forced Russell Anderson to surrender possession on the edge of the box, allowing the loose ball to be collected by Siyabonga Nkosi - only for the Arminia Bielefeld man to send the ball wide of the upright. Anderson's return to Pittodrie was proving to be less than fruitful, and he was responsible for a crude challenge on Zuma minutes later - resulting in the player being stretchered off. The injury will no doubt be a concern for South Africa for next month's qualifier against Zambia in Cape Town, with a draw needed to book their place at the 2008 African Cup of Nations. Despite the loss of one of their star men, Bafana Bafana were displaying far more fluidity than their hosts - and there were 26 minutes on the clock before Scotland had their first real opportunity. Even then, it was barely enough to raise the crowd from their seats. Garry O'Connor directed a head-flick into the path of McFadden in acres of space in front of goal. But the Everton forward embarrassingly mis-kicked, swiping at fresh air instead. Zuma was replaced by Siyabonga Nomvethe, a player offered to McLeish while at Rangers. A well-placed cross from Bradley Carnell was floated on to Nomvethe, who bulleted a powerful header inches over the bar. Craig Gordon was then called into action to paw an angled drive from the forward to safety. The Scots could have snatched the opener before the break. But McFadden's 25-yard free-kick did little to trouble Rowen Fernandez in the South Africa goal, fizzing well over the bar. It was McFadden's last contribution to the match before being replaced by Stephen Pearson at half-time.
The second half also began in uninspiring fashion. Scott Brown failed to deal with an Nkosi cross - allowing Delron Buckley a crack at goal - but Anderson was well-placed to block. Then came Scotland's first effort on target. O'Connor punted into the path of Kenny Miller, who provided one of the few exciting moments of the evening with an ambitious overhead kick which was smothered by Fernandez. A flurry of substitutions followed with Dundee United captain Barry Robson making his debut, replacing Gary Caldwell. Miller and O'Connor then made way for Boyd and Craig Beattie to add some spice to the attack. The plan worked, and Boyd grabbed the opener after just three minutes on the pitch. Stand-in captain Darren Fletcher put the ball over the top of the South Africa defence, and it was gratefully pounced upon by Boyd who rifled into the top corner with 71 minutes gone. Robson then proved worthy of his first cap when a timely intervention on the line prevented Thembinkosi Fanteni's header from finding a home in the back of the net.
Scotland: Gordon, Hutton, Anderson, McManus, McEveley, Brown, Caldwell, Fletcher, McFadden, O'Connor, Miller.
Subs: Neil Alexander, Graham Alexander, Berra, Pearson, Robson, Teale, Beattie, Boyd, Maloney, Marshall.
South Africa: Fernandez, Nzama, Mokoena, Mhlongo, Carnell, Pienaar, Zothwane, Sibaya, Buckley, Nkosi, Zuma.
Subs: Marlin, Mere, Fransman, Evans, Modise, Vilakazi, Nomvethe, Dikgacoi, Sheppard, Fanteni.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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