Wales v Scotland
The Rock, Cefn Druids
Thursday 11 April
Scotland travelled south to face Wales at Cefyn Druids picturesque Rock ground in the knowledge that they would be unable to win the SAFIB Centenary Shield in this, their final match.
After an early setback in Belfast, this campaign has seen some excellent football played in the two home matches against England and the Republic of Ireland.
Bad fortune has had a role – only one goal and one point was claimed in two games where Scotland had the bulk of possession.
Wales started the match brightly, as they still retained faint hopes of their own.
Charlie Caton, Telor Williams and Dylan Rhys Jones combined in an early move to allow Williams to shoot over from just inside the area, and were again off target when Williams’ throw from the left was flicked on by Bobby Beaumont and nodded over by Toby Vickery.
A third attempt (this time from Rhys-Jones) after hesitancy in the Scottish defence served as a barometer for how the opening exchanges had fared, although Josh Mulligan had had two efforts blocked in quick succession after being teed up by Josh Doig.
After weathering this early storm, Scotland looked to assert themselves more in the game: captain Jack Hodge cut infield and fired over from 20 yards, before he combined with Finlay Robertson at a short corner to set up a shooting opportunity for Tiwi Daramola.
Daramola’s shot was blocked as far as Christopher Stafford, who shot wide from 13 yards.
Scotland were now well on top and a promising run from Mulligan ended with him sprawled on the floor in the penalty area. Referee James Walker waved away the Scottish players’ optimistic penalty appeals.
The visitors were undeterred and continued to press forward – the impressive Doig and Hodge played in Finlay Baird, who saw his early shot well held by Welsh goalkeeper Eric Green.
Green would again be in action: making saves from Doig, then Hodge, whilst Beaumont had to look sharp to clear the danger from under his own crossbar after good play by Josh McConville and Robertson almost played in Mulligan at the back post.
Despite all of these opportunities for the visitors, Wales had chances of their own: Stafford rescued Scotland with a superb last gasp challenge on Jack Wilson as he looked poised to shoot; Caton teed up Telor Williams who shot over the bar; and Williams then crossed for Beaumont who saw his effort also prove too high.
With all of these efforts on goal, seasoned observers reckoned that the game really needed one to count.
There appeared little danger of that when Tiwi DARAMOLA was picked out by Hodge on the right touchline, around 40 yards from the Welsh goal.
With a burst of acceleration he took off past his immediate opponent and sprinted into the Welsh penalty area.
He appeared to have been clipped by Beaumont, but retained his balance well to finish across goalkeeper Green with a wonderful solo effort with 28 minutes on the clock.
This goal resembled one he had netted against Partick Thistle earlier in the season, and surely some of those delighted team-mates who mobbed him in celebration possibly cast their minds back too?
Amazingly, Scotland doubled their advantage 4 minutes later.
Again Daramola popped up on the right-hand side. As the Welsh defence moved back towards their own goal he drove a cross towards the six yard line.
Just as Mulligan and Robertson looked set to pounce, the ball was deflected into his own goal by the unfortunate Lee Jenkins, who just couldn’t avoid the dangerous centre.
With ten minutes left in the first half Dylan Coll replaced Ben Cameron, and Caton almost reduced the arrears on the stroke of half time by pouncing on a loose pass to advance on ‘keeper Lee Herbert. Fortunately for Scotland, he couldn’t find the target.
HALF TIME: WALES 0, SCOTLAND 2.
The home side made 3 changes at half-time and started the second half as strongly as they had the first: Rhys-Jones charged into the penalty box and fell, but his appeal drew the same response from referee Walker as Mulligan had elicited in the first half.
Substitute Joe Dyer attempted to pirouette and shoot, but, like a number of Welsh efforts in the first half, his effort was too high.
Scotland’s attacks were limited now. Coll found Hodge who switched play well to Mulligan on the left. His deep cross found Daramola, but Green saved the goal-scorer’s downward header.
A few minutes later a raking pass from McConville found Doig haring down the left wing. He cut infield before shooting narrowly over.
Scottish goalkeeper Herbert was the busier of the two custodians now. He comfortably saved substitute Tristan Jenkins’ low effort after good play from Rhys-Jones, and read where Jack Wilson would attempt to place a 25 yard free-kick to clutch the ball.
Herbert’s defenders were also glad to see the goalie’s reading of the situation come to the fore when he grabbed a deflected high ball as it looked to be looping towards substitute Jack Hampson, who was alone in the Scottish area.
In a two-minute spell Owen Andrew replaced Tiwi Daramola and Josh Mulligan was booked for clattering Rhys-Jones. Both were perhaps symptoms of tiredness: Daramola was ploughing an increasingly lonely furrow up front, whilst Mulligan had been perpetual motion in the Scottish midfield. (He was replaced with 20 minutes to go by Archie Meekison.)
Following Mulligan’s foul the resultant free-kick was knocked down to Jenkins, but he shot over the bar from six yards.
This was a precursor to a period of sustained Welsh bombardment of the Scottish box with Stafford, Coll and Jamie Thompson resolute in their defending, Finlay Baird terrier-like in midfield in front of them and Herbert providing a reassuring presence behind.
Still Wales had opportunities: Dyer looked set to score from Hampson’s cross, but Lancely flicked the ball on just wide of the target, and Herbert was then bundled over in the six yard box by a posse of Welsh attackers whilst catching a high ball.
Hodge then had a difficult chance to add number 3 for Scotland. Clever play with Finlay Robertson allowed a breakaway, but as Green cleared from Robertson the ball fell to Hodge.
He attempted a lob… but it was gathered by the fast retreating Welsh goalie.
Ross Smith was introduced for Baird, who looked as if his race was run with three minutes left.
Wales then notched a consolation goal in the 89th minute as Wilson found Cavan Williams in the penalty area.
The Welsh substitute finished calmly, but it was little more than a post-script to this match, as referee Walker’s whistle sounded in the rapidly cooling Welsh air.
This victory continued a quirk – the away side has triumphed in this fixture in each of the last six seasons.
This victory makes the Centenary Shield look a bit better from a Scottish point of view, although with a little more luck at home things could have looked better still.
FULL TIME: WALES 1, (WILLIAMS 89’) SCOTLAND 2 (DARAMOLA 28’ OG 33’)
WALES: Green, Lloyd, Vickery, Beaumont, Jenkins (c), Wilson, Rhys-Jones, T Williams, Vanstone, Butler, Caton. Subs: C Williams, Lanceley, Gardiner, Dyer, Hampson, Pascoe, Jenkins.
SCOTLAND: Herbert, Cameron (Coll 36’), Doig, Stafford, Thompson, McConville, Mulligan (Meekison 70’), Hodge (c), Daramola (Andrew 65’), Baird (Smith 86’), Robertson. Unused subs: Heraghty (gk), Romanis.