Conor Bradley effort enough as Northern Ireland extend Scotland’s winless streak

By Sports Desk March 26, 2024

Scotland’s winless run became a concern after it was extended to seven games with a dismal 1-0 friendly defeat by Northern Ireland at Hampden Park.

The Tartan Army were looking for a response following a 4-0 defeat by the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Friday night but were shocked when midfielder Conor Bradley fired in for the visitors after 32 minutes.

The home side picked up the pace after the break but could not break down Michael O’Neill’s determined side, who stood firm to register Northern Ireland’s first win in Mount Florida in almost 50 years.

Scotland have not been on a seven-game winless run since August 2004 to March 2005 and they take on Gibraltar and Finland in June friendlies before they face hosts Germany in the Euro 2024 opener at the Allianz Arena.

Somehow they need to regain their groove or there could be more pain to come.

The Scots had long since booked their place in this summer’s Euros with a terrific qualifying campaign but they were under a bit of pressure following the Dutch defeat.

Manager Steve Clarke made two changes with centre-back Liam Cooper in for Ryan Porteous and striker Lyndon Dykes in for Lawrence Shankland.

There was a youthful look about O’Neill’s side which showed three changes from the team that started in the 1-1 draw in Romania, with former St Johnstone midfielder Ali McCann, Dan Ballard and goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell returning at the expense of ex-Celtic stopper Conor Hazard, Jordan Thompson and Paddy Lane.

Scotland tried to build some early pressure after midfielder Ryan Christie curled an effort from the edge of the visitors’ area wide of the post, but Northern Ireland were not unduly bothered.

The game drifted along with Peacock-Farrell having next to nothing to do before it took an unexpected turn.

Scotland wing-back Nathan Patterson recovered well to rescue an original mistake when a pass deep inside his own box was intercepted by Bradley and the 20-year-old Liverpool defender turned inside before firing high past goalkeeper Angus Gunn, with the aid of a slight deflection off defender Jack Hendry for his first international goal.

Then Scotland captain Andrew Robertson went off with an injury to be replaced by midfielder Lewis Ferguson and the home side returned to a back four with Kieran Tierney moving to left-back.

Northern Ireland almost doubled their lead on a speedy counter, with Shea Charles guiding the ball just wide, as did Scotland midfielder Scott McTominay – moments later – at the other end.

Boos from the home fans accompanied the half-time whistle.

Scotland started the second half with increased tempo but there still remained a lack of incision and guile and while Jamie Reid fired wide to end a Northern Ireland attack, at least it was an effort on goal.

In the 63rd minute, John McGinn’s free-kick came off Liam Cooper’s shoulder and skipped past the visitors’ goal and the home fans drove their side forward with increasing gusto.

Tierney was finding space down the left but the Scots could not capitalise.

Che Adams and Kenny McLean replaced Dykes and Gilmour in the 68th minute before Shankland and Stuart Armstrong also came on for Christie and McGinn.

Shankland soon had a close-range shot blocked by Brodie Spencer and Peacock-Farrell tipped a Ferguson header over the crossbar for a corner, before Shankland sent a header over and then four added minutes ran out.

Scotland have regressed recently in terms of results but it is this performance that should primarily concern Clarke.

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