Stalemate at Hampden

Last updated : 21 August 2008 By Southside Johnny
Attendance 28,072

Scotland and Northern ireland played out an uninspiring goalless draw at Hampden tonight in the final international friendly before the World Cup qualifiers get under way.

Scots Manager George Burley fielded three Rangers players in the starting line-up - namely David Weir, Kevin Thomson and Kenny Miller - with a further three on the substitutes bench in the shape of Allan McGregor, Steven Whittaker and Kris Boyd against a Northern Ireland side that included Steve Davis, about to rejoin the Ibrox club from Fulham.

Tonight marked the first visit of the Irish to Hampden Park since 1992 when a certain Alistair McCoist scored the only goal of the game.

Northern Ireland are of course the reigning Home International Champions - a title they have held since the competition was abolished in 1984.

There was a massive 7,000 travelling support inside the Mount Florida ground, all of whom were wholly respectful as 'FLOWER OF SCOTLAND' was played. Shamefully 'GOD SAVE THE QUEEN' - the one true National Anthem of both countries - was booed by the racists in the 'Tartan Army'.

The game took an eternity to come to life - with Irish debutant Ryan McGivern yellow-carded in 26 minutes for a foul on Scott Brown.

Three minutes later Thomson's cross-field pass found Jamie McFadden who worked an opening for himself only to see his weak effort held by visiting goalkeeper Maik Taylor.

An insipid first-half ended goalless - and George Burley made three changes at the interval with McGregor replacing Craig Gordon in goal, Barry Robson and Darren Barr substituting for the injured Thomson and Stephen McManus. David Weir took over the captaincy.

Seven minutes after the restart Robson's twenty-yard shot flashed just over.

The Irish were reduced to ten men in 56 minutes when McGivern received a second yellow and consequent red card for a foul on Scott Brown. It was a harsh decision by Danish Referee Nicolai Vollquartz - given that this was a friendly fixture, but the Scots now faced a weakened opposition.

McFadden's twenty-yard free-kick was held by his Birmingham City teammate Taylor, then sixty seconds later the Scot was inches wide with a curler from the edge of the box.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Ulstermen had a clear opportunity to open the scoring in 58 minutes when substitute Warren Feeney (on loan from Cardiff City to Dundee United) was downed by McGregor as he homed in on goal.

It was a clear penalty - but the Ranger produced a superb save from David Healy's spot-kick to keep the score-sheet blank.

Two minutes later at the other end Barr's near-post header from a Darren Fletcher corner was held by Taylor.

The Irish had a strong appeal for a second penalty in 77 minutes when Feeney was bundled over by Barr as he homed in on a Davis cross - but on this occasion the referee waved play on.

Four minutes later Robson's corner, head-flicked on by Barr at the near post, saw McFadden's volley produce a superb one-handed save from Taylor.

Scotland pressed for a winner - and in 85 minutes Graham Alexander's low 25-yarder was touched wide by the Irish goalkeeper.

The game ended goalless - but afterwards Burley was positive in his assessment of the game:

"We wanted to win, but it was a good workout. We worked hard for each other. I was able to blood a number of new players. Northern Ireland were always going to make it difficult for us. We lacked a cutting edge up front, but were unfortunate not to score."

On the question of the goalkeeping position, the Scotland Manager was diplomatic:

"We have two top-class international goalkeepers."

Tonight's draw leaves Scotland with the unwanted statistic of it being fully twelve years since they last won an international friendly at Hampden.

SCOTLAND Gordon (Sunderland) [McGregor (Rangers) 45]; Alexander (Burnley), Naysmith (Sheffield United); McManus (Celtic) [Barr (Falkirk) 45], Weir (Rangers) [Berra (Hearts) 71], Thomson (Rangers) [Robson (Celtic) 45]; D. Fletcher (Manchester United) [Stewart (Hearts) 68], Brown (Celtic), Miller (Rangers), McFadden (Birmingham City), Morrison (West Bromwich Albion) [Commons (Derby County) 61]
UNUSED SUBS Marshall (Norwich City), Whittaker (Rangers), Boyd (Rangers), S. Fletcher (Hibernian), Clarkson (Motherwell)

NORTHERN IRELAND Taylor (Birmingham City); McAuley (Ipswich Town) [Duff (Burnley) 75], McGivern (Manchester City); Evans (Manchester United), Craigan (Motherwell), Clingan (Norwich City) [O'Connor (Crewe Alexandra) 57]; Baird (Fulham), Davis (Fulham), Healy (Fulham), Paterson (Burnley) [Shiels (Hibernian) 45], Brunt (West Bromwich Albion) [Feeney (Cardiff City) 54]
UNUSED SUBS Mannus (Linfield)

REFEREE Nicolai Vollquartz (Denmark)