• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Scotland U21s 2 Hungary U21s 2: Second-half revamp scuppers young Scots

NOT even a change of venue could alter the fortunes of the Scotland Under-21 side.

Ryan Fraser attempts to shield the ball from Balint Vecsei at Tannadice. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Ryan Fraser attempts to shield the ball from Balint Vecsei at Tannadice. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Struggling to make headway in their European Champion­ship qualifying group, the Scottish Football Association chose to switch this friendly against Hungary from St Mirren Park, their usual home, to Tannadice.

The outcome, however, was simply more of the same. Two goals to the good and looking comfortable, a second-half double from Andras Rado - one a penalty, the other plundered three minutes from time - left Billy Stark and his players having to settle for a draw. With the Netherlands next up for Scotland in May, this was not the morale-boosting win the head coach would have been looking for.

Qualification for next summer's European Championships in the Czech Republic already looks a forlorn prospect, with Stark's side sitting fourth in Group 3 after five matches and, in all likelihood, needing to win their final three matches to have any chance of making the play-offs. The friendly nature of the tie at least gave Stark the chance of experimenting and he handed seven players their debuts, including two - St Mirren's Sean Kelly and Craig Slater of Kilmarnock - from the start.

It was perhaps no coincidence that Scotland faltered after Stark had made a raft of second-half changes having looked relatively assured in the first 45 minutes.

"The feeling is disappointment as we got into a winning position but you look at these games and try to take lots of different things out of it," said Stark. "You look at the first half and the performances of Slater, [Kenny] McLean, [Stuart] Armstrong and [Callum] McGregor, they were absolutely excellent. When you make a lot of changes it's maybe not all that surprising that we didn't get going in the second half. But there are a lot of things to be positive about."

Local interest in the match had been diminished with the withdrawal of Dundee United's Ryan Gauld and John Souttar through injury but a decent crowd of 4537 still travelled out to Tannadice on a night when international football on their televisions and laptops must have been a tempting alternative. Such was the demand, in fact, that at one point midway through the first half there was an impromptu evacuation of several hundred fans from the overflowing George Fox stand into the Shed end behind the goal, the meandering throng on the touchline causing the Dutch referee to bring the game to a halt until they had retaken their seats in their new surrounds.

Those in attendance were rewarded for their loyalty with a Scotland display that was largely positive, enterprising and embroidered with two fine goals, even if the result was ultimately not to the home crowd's liking. This would prove to be a good night in particular for McGregor, the Celtic forward on loan at Notts County, who scored the first and created the second with a piece of bewitching individual skill.

Scotland, twice, claimed for first-half penalties only to be instead awarded free kicks right on the periphery of the Hungary box. The first, taken by Marcus Fraser, bounced off the defensive wall and over for a corner but there was greater success with the second as McGregor kept his shot low, steering it under the leaping wall to put Scotland in front after 25 minutes.

By half-time Stark's side had a second. It was a terrifically-worked goal, McGregor playing in Armstrong with an incisive pass, the latter squaring for Fraser to thump the ball past the goalkeeper. The Bournemouth player had been wrongly awarded the first goal by the Tannadice PA man but there would be no one taking the second away from him.

Rado had missed Hungary's first real chance - his shot so off-target that it was in more danger of hitting the corner flag than the net - but he would make amends late in the game, scoring the penalty that drew Hungary back into contention after Joe Chalmers was adjudged to have handled just 23 minutes into his debut. Rado then rescued a draw with a fine finish after being played in by Istvan Kovacs.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

217403