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Greece U21 1 Scotland U21 1: Watt is a leading light as new potential emerges from the shadows

The Scotland under-21s may have been without a number of their bigger names yesterday but they were still able to rely on a familiar face when it mattered.

Tony Watt scores from the penalty spot to draw level
Tony Watt scores from the penalty spot to draw level

Tony Watt ensured that he would not prove too hard to recognise when he scored Celtic's second against Barcelona earlier this season, and he has now added to his tally with a penalty which earned a draw against the Greek under-21s. He has now scored four times in his last six appearances for Scotland.

It allowed his side to take a sense of encouragement back home with them ahead of the start of the 2015 European Championship qualifiers – which begin next month with a tie against Luxembourg – but also a greater faith in the depth of the squad. Billy Stark had travelled to Greece without such as Islam Feruz, the Chelsea striker who is on duty with the under-19s, but found willing replacements in the likes of Callum Tapping, the Hearts midfielder, and Partick Thistle youngster Stuart Bannigan.

The Scotland under-21 manager was delighted with the way his depleted squad was able recover from falling a goal behind in Greece and can be heartened for the start of his side's qualifying campaign. "If you had said to me before we came that we would have gone away with a draw, I think it's more than noteworthy," said Stark.

"We settled down and I thought after 20 minutes we had some really good passing movements. They had a lot of good qualities like explosive movement and they were quick with the ball and we had to really dig in at the end.

"I said to them that the mark of a team is not just that you can go out and play well every game because you can't do that, what you have to show are the other qualities. It showed because they dug in and showed they were not going to lose the game. We understand they had a couple of chances but I think that was really because they had fresh legs. They showed good old-fashioned character."

That sentiment could have referred to the ramshackle Sinikismos Stadium, too. Home to Greek third division side Korinthos, the venue was a throwback to an earlier time. Like ancient Greece. The Scots' dressing room had just four showers and a hole in the ground for the toilet, while they would hardly have felt any more at home as their hosts played Three Lions on a seemingly continuous loop.

Still, Stark's side were able to cope with all that, as well as the assault on the sense that came from a promising Greek side. Scotland fielded an experimental line-up – with Bannigan and Tapping both making their debuts – and they were tested by opponents which contained many of the players who reached last year's Under-19 European Championship final.

Yet the Scots nearly took the lead after six minutes when Watt's strength earned Scotland a free-kick and Bannigan's floated cross was nodded on target by Rhys McCabe, Andreas Gianniotis clawing the ball away. From the resulting corner, Fraser Kerr then glanced a header wide.

It was a promising opening spell but one which would be interrupted by the Greeks. They went ahead after just 13 minutes and from their first attack of note; Everton striker Apostolos Vellios' crossing for Nikos Karelis to glance a header past Chris Kettings, the Blackpool goalkeeper.

Kettings saved Scotland after 27 minutes with a fine stop when he stretched to his right to claw away a low drive from Vellios, with the highly-rated forward a constant threat. Celtic's Dylan McGeouch was denied a chance to pose a similar problem at the other end after he hobbled off with a thigh knock in the first half, with Rory McKenzie, the Kilmarnock striker, replacing him.

Watt continued to offer Scotland their best chance of restoring parity and he proved it when he smacked a shot against the side-netting at the start of the second half after a strong run down the left side. Against the run of play, he then scored the equaliser; the Celtic striker playing an intelligent pass inside for McKenzie, who raced into the penalty area before being brought down by Babis Lykogiannis. Watt duly drilled the ball into the corner of the net from the spot.

The Greeks sought to recover their advantage with more enterprising play and Scotland had their backs to the walls for the remaining half an hour. They almost relented when Giannis Gianniotas burst through late on but he fired wide.

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