A similar game transpired. The 2019 encounter was settled by a single headed goal from a corner kick. Action was relatively similar in 2023. The visitors had a number of first half corners, dangerously swung in from the right by Russel-Vargas and from the left by Calum Bonner.
Bonner’s delivery in the 15th minute saw the Republic of Ireland come closest to notching all evening. His cross eluded the front post jumpers, and Niall Halohan met the ball on the volley. It cannoned off the top of the crossbar and bounced over.
Scotland were attempting quick counters primarily with the midfield triumvirate of Nathan Smith, Martin Campbell and Ricky Waugh attempting to support Aaron Nicholson who was leading the line. A clever flick from Nicholson found Nathan Cannon on the left, who saw his delivery cleared by Miller in the Irish backline.
This pattern continued throughout the first half, with the most notable chance falling to Bonner, who shot over after a fortuitous deflection set him free.
HALF TIME: SCOTLAND 0-0 REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
It was perhaps a sign of how tight the game was that neither side made any changes at half time. Neither side was prepared to yield ground and some of the tackling became more fierce. A reflection of the competitive nature of the game when Waugh was booked in the tenth minute of the second half for a mis-timed sliding tackle on Scotland’s right. The resultant free kick was well dealt with by Harris Clubb.
The visitors’ deliveries were again proving dangerous. Either side of Scotland’s double substitution (Prior and Mason-Bone replaced McGivern and Cannon) dangerous deliveries troubled Scotland’s backline: goalkeeper Ethan Mitchell comfortably dealing with Senan Mullen’s header, then captain Harris club repelled another dangerous Russell-Vargas delivery.
As the game reached a nervy last 20 minutes, Nicholson again sought to provide for his team-mates. His cross from the left looked promising, but Prior just failed to gain enough purchase on his header. Both sides made numerous changes, but there were few chances of note: another Mullen header was saved by Mitchell; Halohan received a yellow card almost on the 90th minute for stopping a promising Scotland attack by illegal means; and Russell-Vargas whistled a stoppage time effort into the Scotland side-netting.
At full time two weary sides shook hands after a battling first match. Although goalless, both sides will take positives onto their next match. Scotland don’t have long to wait, as they take on Northern Ireland at Harland and Woolf Welders’ FC’s new Blanchflower stadium in East Belfast on Thursday at 7pm.
FULL TIME: SCOTLAND 0, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND 0.
Scotland: Ethan Mitchell, Jamie Carnihan, Callum Hannah, Andrew Miller, Harris Club (captain), Nathan Smith, Martin Campbell, Aaron Nicholson (Lewis Downie 77’), Ricky Waugh (Calum Gemmell 77’), Nathan Cannon (Daniel Mason-Bone 64’), Jayden McGivern (Joe Prior 64’).
Unused subs: Corey Armour (gk), Ruaridh Cant.
Republic of Ireland: Delaney, Adedeji, Dempsey, Rooney, Halohan, Mullen, Bonner, Healy (captain), Grogan, Kenny, Russell-Vargas. Subs: Kelly-Noonan, O’Halloran, McBrearty, Cunningham, Folan (gk).