Bradley's first NI goal extends Scotland's winless run

by 24britishtvMarch 26, 2024, 11 p.m. 17
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Last updated on .From the section Football

Conor Bradley's first Northern Ireland goal drained more life out of Scotland's Euro 2024 preparations at Hampden by extending their winless run to seven games.

Nathan Patterson's cheap error in the build-up epitomised a poor showing from Steve Clarke's Germany-bound side, who were lucky to avoid conceding again before the break when Shea Charles somehow curled wide from close range.

A laboured first-half display from the hosts, during which they failed to register a shot on target despite having much more of the ball, was compounded by a suspected ankle injury suffered by captain Andy Robertson.

Lewis Ferguson, the Liverpool left-back's replacement, had a close-range effort blocked shortly after the break and a late header tipped over just moments before Lawrence Shankland looped one of his own off target.
• None Live: Follow all the best reaction from Hampden
• None All the latest NI news from BBC Sport

But Clarke's men did not show enough improvement and imagination in the second half to break down Michael O'Neill's well-drilled away side, who are now unbeaten in their last three games.

In the previous encounter between these two in March 2015, it was Northern Ireland who were warming up for a European Championship against a Scotland side looking to revitalise itself. This time, roles were reversed.

You would not have known that on the basis of this meeting, though. Scotland lacked ideas. Northern Ireland had a gameplan that worked to a tee.

O'Neill's side were compact from front to back, affording the frustrated Scots very little space to penetrate passes and reducing them to shots from distance from Ryan Christie and Scott McTominay, both of whom should have done better.

The visitors, whose only shot on target was their goal, were happy to sit back on their lead after the break - and why not?

It was a formula that worked for O'Neill and his players, who celebrated a first away win in more than a year in front of a wild away support at full time. Try telling them it was just a friendly.

O'Neill making mark again as Scots struggle for momentum - analysis

Even amid the boos at Hampden, most of the Tartan Army will find it difficult to be too hard on a team and manager who are comfortably the most successful Scotland team of the past 25 years.

But there are real concerns for Clarke, whose side look to have taken a backwards step after such a stellar qualifying campaign.

Friendlies or not, these games were vital if Scotland want to avoid a second straight disappointment at a second straight Euros.

The injury to Robertson is a obvious worry, but so is a serious lack of pace in attacking areas. Much is made of a lack of clinical edge from the strikers, but arguably just as glaring is a shortage of forwards who can stretch play.

As for Northern Ireland, they do not have a summer in Germany to look forward to, but their manager is demonstrating his credentials again as his second stint clicks into gear.

Bradley will be the poster boy for this young squad, but there is more than the Liverpool man to be inspired by in this team, who must now build on three very impressive results against Denmark, Romania and Scotland.
• None Northern Ireland earned their win in Scotland in 11 attempts, since a 1-0 victory in May 1974. It is also just the second time that they have managed to score during that run, after a 1-1 draw in March 1981.
• None Scotland are winless in each of their last seven games (D2 L5) - their worst run since August 2004-March 2005. It is also the first time they have failed to keep a clean sheet in seven consecutive games since March 2017.
• None Scotland have won just one of their previous 13 friendlies (D3 L9), and have lost each of their last five.
• None Northern Ireland managed just four shots - their fewest in their last 12 games. It was the fewest they have had in a victory since March 2018 (four shots v South Korea).
• None Conor Bradley scored his first Northern Ireland goal on his 15th appearance. He is the youngest Northern Irishman to score in Scotland (20y 261d) since George Best in November 1964 (18y 187d).
• None Bradley's goal made him the second Liverpool player to score for Northern Ireland, after Billy Lacey against England in February 1914.
• None Stuart Armstrong is the fourth player to win his 50th Scotland cap in a match against a fellow British home nation, after George Young in 1956 (v Northern Ireland), Kenny Dalglish in 1977 (v Wales) and Joe Jordan in 1982 (v Wales).

Scotland return to action in June with two final Euro 2024 warm-up games with Gibraltar and Finland.

Northern Ireland do not play again until a double-header with Luxembourg and Bulgaria kicks off their Nations League campaign.

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