A dreich early evening blossomed into a decent night for football as Scotland Under 16s welcomed their Northern Ireland counterparts to the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium (AKA Almondvale) tonight for the Victory Shield game. They didn't have 16 year olds built like the boys representing their countries when I was that age. A small band of fans from Ireland in the west stand made sure their players knew they were right behind them from the start. A strange version of 'Away in a manger' wafted across the ground from their position from time to time. Surreal or what? Scotland eventually ran out 3-0 winners in front of 1,011 fans in what turned out to be a decent game. The goals came from Danny Johnstone (Celtic), Cameron Smith (Aberdeen) and Jack Kirwan (Celtic)
The game was pretty even for the first 20 minutes with perhaps Scotland edging it on terms of time spent in the opposition half. Number 7 for Scotland, Smith was a regular threat with good linking up with Johnstone and Lewis Kidd (Celtic). It was Smith that had the first shot of the game with a driving run in the 15 minute. With defenders backing off, Smith just kept on running and ended with a shot which just went past the right hand post of Conor Thompson (Swindon Town). It was down to Johnstone to break the deadlock in the 39th minute with a powerful shot through the visiting keeper. He was put through on the right hand side of the box and was driven towards the right of the goal but was strong enough to guide the ball under the Thompson and into the left hand side of the goal.
The second half brought the reward for Smith as he scored his goal in the seventh minute. He had shown what he could do in the first half when he just kept on running at the back tracking Irish defence before sending in a shot when went just past the post. In the second half, he demonstrated that his first effort was just a sighting shot as once again he took the ball right through the Irish side from his own box before unleashing a unstoppable shot. He was taken off later in the game after he slipped when on another driving run. I can't remember an effort from the visitors trouble Ryan Crump (Liverpool) in the Scotland goal, There was a flurry of substitutions in the second half and at least one made a difference. Jack Kirwan came on for Gary Duggan (Queen's Park) and he was celebrating before the night was out as the strapping youngster scored a fine goal to end the scoring.
The eighty minute game was entertaining enough and played in a fine spirit. Tackles were fair and there were no histrionics displayed were challenges ended with a player on the deck. A good start to the Victory Shield tournament for Scotland.
Scotland: Crump, Ramsay, Madden, Finlay, Urquhart, Linsay, Smith, Munn, Johnstone, Kidd, Duggan.
Subs: Hart, Kirwan, Storie, Sibbald, Johnston, Lunday
Northern Ireland: Thompson, Glendinning, Stewart, Gibson, Nixon, McEneff, Buchannan, McGheehan, Sharvin, Ball, Doherty
Subs: Johns, Conlon, McMahon, McGillian, Carlin, McNair, Glakin