And so it was worth it in the end.
Faroe Islands: Neilson, Devidsen, Tor Naes, Greersen, Jacobsen, Petersen (Mouritsen 60), Lokin, Udsen (Juspinusen 86), Elttor, Holst (Poulsen 56), Edmunsdsson
They said it was at an awkward time of the season, against opponents who are most often a ritual sacrifice. They said so few of Levein’s starters would be available; that any experimentation would be in vain. Consensus seemed to suggest that this particular game was as ill judged as an Airdrie United match-day programme.
However, the much maligned fixture at Pittodrie proved to be a worthwhile exercise for Craig Levein, as he successfully showcased several new talents, and coerced an encouraging performance from his charges, albeit against even more limited opponents than we might have originally thought.
On an uncharacteristically mild evening in Aberdeen, the Scotland manager gave starting debuts to Liverpool youngster Danny Wilson and the highly rated Aston Villa midfielder Barry Bannan. Indeed it was a particularly anglo-centric starting eleven, with Shaun Maloney being the only representative of the Scottish Division. Not since a 3-1 defeat to England in 1979 – when Paul Hegarty was the sole Scottish based player - have so many of the national side played outside their homeland.
The Premiership may have over exaggerated the title as “The Best League in the World”, but the level of competition suggests it can only be a positive place for our young talent to develop. The fact that Scotland were able to name eight starters from this division - despite their depleted squad - is a more than welcome sign of things to come.
The Faroes had started the evening strongly, winning physical battles in the centre of midfield, and allowing the likes of Darren Fletcher and Barry Bannan little time or space to work with. The visitors were unfortunate not to open the scoring as early as the 9th minute, when Jann Inge Petersen’s 20 yard free kick hit the crossbar. This early opportunity suggested that the Faroes had, as reports indicated, improved significantly under the tutelage of Brian Kerr. It was to be entirely deceptive.
After early nerves, the Scottish midfield settled and concentrated on recycling possession to the wings. The ever potent Shaun Maloney and a triumvirate of Bannan, Adam and Bardsley started to tick, purr and probe, as gradually the Scots exerted control over the midfield. The best opportunity fell to Kris Common, who should have done better with a header across goal that was neither shot nor pass.
Pressure continued to be applied on either flank, and so it was of little surprise when Scotland took the lead from this area in the simplest of manners. Charlie Adam’s pinpoint corner caused no end of hesitation in the Faroese six yard area, and debutant Danny Wilson was able to connect with a swinging boot from six yards out. Six minutes later and the lead was doubled in a similar fashion; Adam’s corner from the right again caused consternation and the unclaimed ball was deftly guided into the net by Kris Commons.
By now the Scottish midfield were in their pomp. Darren Fletcher was acting the metronome, keeping play ticking over, while Barry Bannan was exponentially growing in stature and confidence with each passing minute. The recent graduate from the under 21’s demanded possession, was neat with his passing and put more effort into proceedings than the majority of his competitors have in recent games. If his progress continues at the same rate then we should expect to see much more of him in key qualifiers.
To further underline the one sidedness of the fixture, Scotland added a third goal just on half time. Again the Faroes failed to deal with a Charlie Adam corner, half clearing it to the aforementioned Bannan, whose cross could have not been more tempting. Danny Wilson – holding the same position as he did for the opening goal – nodded the ball back for the onrushing Jamie Mackie to claim his first goal for his country. All three goals were from crosses from the right, and all were scored from six yards out.
There were further chances in the second half, particularly when a poor back-pass let Shaun Maloney in alone against the goalkeeper. The forward opted to chip the ball when placement or power would have been preferable, and saw his shot fall wide. Bannan also had a good opportunity to score on his debut, but his header from Commons’ cross was too high.
As is so often the case, a plethora of substitutions fractured the rhythm of the game, and there was little incident in the final half hour. Craig Bryson and Cammy Bell were introduced for Darren Fletcher and Craig Gordon, meaning Kilmarnock had two representatives in the Scotland team for the first time since Ian Durrant and Ally McCoist started in a 3-2 win over Estonia in 1998. Bell made one excellent save to deny Newcastle’s Joan Edmundsson.
David Goodwillie, James McArthur and Steven Saunders were also given their full debuts, replacing the ever-threatening Kris Commons, Charlie Adam and Phil Bardsley. All three looked enthusiastic, but were given too little of the ball to judge their contribution fully.
If the purpose of the exercise was to take a closer look at certain individuals, then the evening was a wholehearted success. Barry Bannan was arguably the man of the match, and Danny Wilson could have done little more than provide a goal and an assist on his debut. There was also a timely reminder that Gary Kenneth is perhaps a little out of his depth at International Level, even with such modest opponents. Should we learn from the results of these experiments then our fragile European Championship campaign could yet be resurrected by the new blood.
Leaving all pragmatism aside, it is also a great relief to have registered a comfortable win. Recent results have frayed the nerves of the Tartan Army, and respite is particularly sweet. We all feel a little better about ourselves into the bargain.
Scotland: Gordon (Bell 68), Crainey, Caldwell, Bardsley (Saunders 71), Wilson (Kenneth 60), Maloney. Fletcher (Bryson 68), Adam (McArthur 55), Bannan. Commons (Goodwillie 76), MacKie
Subs not used: Caddis, Davidson, Kyle
Goals: Wilson 24, Commons 31, Mackie 44
Subs not used: Thomsen, Hansen, Baldvinsson, Frederiksberg
Referee: P van Boekel