Northern Ireland 1 Scotland 6

Scotland travelled to Belfast on Friday 16 February to play Northern Ireland in their annual first international of the season.

On Friday afternoon, the squad had a training session at Carrick Academy in Maybole on the way down to Cairnryan for the sea crossing. Unlike two years ago the ferry trip was uneventful and the party arrived in Belfast fit and ready for the next day’s game.

The Scots had an early breakfast and made the short journey to Seaview Stadium, home of Irish Premiership side Crusaders who were kindly hosting the match.

As in the preparatory games, it was Scotland who took control early in the game. In the second minute Scotland forced a corner. Phoebe O’Donnell delivered a superb cross into the Irish six-yard box which the Northern Ireland’s Lily-Brooke Wallace managed to clear before Caitlin Martin could connect.

Northern Ireland clear the danger

Dara Ositelu was posing problems for the Irish defence with her fast and direct running. She managed to get behind the back line on a number of occasions and cut the ball back for in-rushing Scots forwards.

In the fifth minute Phoebe O’Donnell raced past her defender and forced a corner. The ball was played into the Northern Irish six-yard box. The keeper reached out to gather the ball only to see it slip through her hands. Dara Ositelu reacted to the loose ball and was first to get to the ball only to see her shot slip past the post.

At this early stage of the game the Scottish midfield duo of Lily Boyce and Ava Crawford were fully in control of the ball and making use of the pace of wingers Phoebe O’Donnell and Orla Burn to stretch the Irish defence.

With all the action in the Northern Irish half it was surprising that, in the ninth minute, it was Northern Ireland who opened the scoring. From a freekick inside their own half, Chloe Beckinsale played a high ball into the Scottish box. The danger wasn’t cleared, Abby Smyth followed in and lobbed the ball high into the net.

Northern Ireland's Abby Smyth open the scoring

Although this was against the run of play, the setback didn’t deter the young Scots side. Melissa Regmi was beginning to get more of the ball and her pace was stretching the Northern Irish defence. In the 12th minute Melissa made a run down the right, beat two defenders before cutting the ball back to Ava Crawford. Ava moved inside and was impeded by a defender. Free kick to Scotland 25 yards out. Iona Watt stepped up and lifted the ball over the wall into the corner of the net. A superbly struck free kick.

Scotland players congratulate Iona Watt on her equaliser

Two minutes later Dara Ositelu went close when she picked up a clearance from a corner and just missed the post with her shot.

After Scotland’s initial dominance it was Northern Ireland’s turn to dictate play. They pushed further up the pitch and gave the Scots less time on the ball. As a result, the Scots were not quite as fluid as in the opening period.

Ireland did venture into the Scottish half more. The defensive pairing of Sky Murtagh and Caitlin Martin looked very solid and dealt with any attacks very effectively.

In the 22nd minute Northern Ireland had three corners in a row. First Sky Murtagh then Abby Hayes and finally Alex Reid cleared the danger.

Sky Murtagh heads the corner away from danger

One minute later a fast break down their right was very confidently defended by Caitlin Martin who saw the ball out for a goal kick.

Abby Hayes was very effective in transitioning defending to attack with her well placed passes to Phoebe O’Donnell down the right wing. Similarly on the left Iona Watt was linking up very well with Orla Burn to turn attacks around.

In the 26th minute another great move by Scotland. Started by Lily Boyce who moved the ball wide to Orla Burn. Orla beat two defenders before slipping the ball inside to Dara Osidelu. Dara turned and moved the ball wide right to Phoebe O’Donnell who then raced to the line before cutting the ball back across the Northern Ireland six-yard box. A great move despite no end result.

Scotland were now back on top and stretching the Northern Irish defence with their fast passing and moving game. In the 28th minute after an attack started by Abby Hayes down the right wing, the ball was moved to Phoebe who played an onrushing Dara into an one on one with the keeper who pulled off a fine save to deny Dara.

Scotland pressure paid off when in the 34th minute Lily Boyce intercepted an Northern Irish clearance and drilled the ball low to the keeper’s left into the net from the edge of the box.

Lily Boyce celebrates scoring Scotland's second goal

Scotland continued to press for goal with Phoebe O’Donnell making good use of the wide park to take on the Northern Ireland defenders.

Five minutes before half-time Scotland added a third goal. From yet another attack down the right wing by Phoebe the ball was played into the Northern Ireland six-yard line. Melissa Regmi, at the back post, was first to react and knocked the ball into the net from five yards out.

Melissa Regmi makes the score 3-1 to Scotland

Half-time: Northern Ireland 1 Scotland 3

Scotland made six substitutions at half time; Morgan McCroary replaced Alex Reid in goal. Erin Gilvear, May Cruft, , Lucy Stevenson, Ava Allison and Erin O’Brien replaced Abby Hayes, Melissa Regmi , Sky Murtagh, Phoebe O’Donnell, and Dara Ositelu to give all girls game time.

Making six changes to the team did not disturb the rhythm of this Scotland side. Right from the kick off they pressed the Northern Ireland side back in their half. And for the next twenty minutes they continued that intense press.

Three minutes into the second half Lily Boyce added her second and Scotland’s fourth. May Cruft had a shot from the edge of the box which was blocked. Lily reacted to the loose ball, took one touch, and smashed a high ball over the keeper’s head into the net from 20 yards out.

Lily Boyce celebrates scoring her second and Scotland's fourth goal

The ‘new’ additions certainly upped the pace at which Scotland were moving the ball around the pitch. In particular Ava Allison, down the right wing, and May Cruft in midfield were really testing the resilience of the Northern Irish defence. Erin O’Brien, with her pace, was unrelenting in closing down any play out of defence.

Erin Gilvear, at right back, took up from where Abby Hayes left off. Her pacy runs down the right wing were causing the Northern Ireland defence all sorts of concern. In the 51st minute she forced a corner after a great run. The corner was beautifully flighted to the back post where May Cruft forced the ball over the line.

May Cruft is congratulated on scoring Scotland's fifth goal

Ava Allison continued to stretch the opposition defence with her pace down the right wing. In the 54th minute she raced past two defenders and had a shot which brought out a great stop by the Irish keeper.

The driving rain that was now falling out of the Belfast sky did not deter the Scottish side. Lily Boyce and Ava Crawford continued to control the midfield, allowing Ava Allison and May Cruft to pick holes in the Irish defence. Lucy Stevenson, who came on at half time, quickly broke up any Northern Ireland attacks very effectively. Erin O’Brien continued to cover every blade of grass with her determination to win the ball back. When she did so she very cleverly set up others to have a shot at goal.

The final goal of the game came in the 72nd minute when May Cruft received the ball from wide left, turned and hit the ball high into the net for 20 yards out. A superbly struck goal.

May Cruft drives into the Northern Ireland box to score her second and Scotland's sixth goal of the game

Full-time: Northern Ireland 1 Scotland 6

Northern Ireland: Madison Bell, Daisy Moore, Holly Hilton, Chloe Beckinsale, Lily-Brooke Wallace, Charlotte Havern, Heidi Curran, Abbie Smyth, Grace McAllister, Ruby Adair, Maja Stachura.
Subs: Sophie Glover, Jemima Hernen, Emile Leacock, Mirijana Karrabecaj, Ava Hurl, Grace Campbell, Aoife Gargan.

Scotland: Alex Reid, Abby Hayes, Sky Murtagh, Caitlin Martin, Iona Watt, Phoebe O’Donnell, Lily Boyce, Ava Crawford, Orla Burn, Dara Ositelu, Melissa Regmi.
Subs: Morgan McCroary, May Crufy, Erin Gilvear, Lucy Stevenson, Ava Allison, Erin O’Brien.

Scotland Squad

Post-match Interview

Scotland's Goals - Behind the goal with goPro