The Lloyds TSB Scotland sponsored Scottish Schools' FA International boys squad has now completed its preparation and is ready to kick off the 2013 Centenary Shield campaign tonight in Dungannon against Northern Ireland.
The team met up for two important preparation days on 11th and 12th of February following a good victory over Falkirk on Friday 8th February, coming from two down to win 3-2 at Stirling University.
After all the preparation games against senior club opposition the squad has taken shape ahead of an exciting programme of International matches.
On Tuesday 29th January the squad visited the excellent training facilities of Hibernian FC and were tested to the full by an experienced home team which included a few U20 players on the fringe of first team football. As wind and rain swept over the Ormiston facility, the SSFA team was under the cosh for much of the first period.
The defence worked well together and with all the midfield and front players working hard in front of the back four they were disappointed to concede a goal from a free kick. Keeper Chris Truesdale (Coatbridge HS) for once allowed the ball to squirm through his hands and under his bar. Jamie Barclay (St.Margaret's HS) was also disappointed that his volleyed effort at a corner kick cleared the crossbar in what was the visitors' only real chance.
In the second period Scotland came more into the game and managed to ask a few questions of the Hibernian defence with some decent build-up play. Lee Davidson (Bishopbriggs Ac.) was introduced as a second-half substitute and made an impressive contribution. It was Lee who finished off a very good move to equalise for the SSFA team after twenty minutes of the second period. Unfortunately the team could not keep out a quick counter-attack from Hibs and the Edinburgh club went ahead only minutes after being pulled level.
Scotland continued to defend stoutly and made a number of half chances in the remainder of the game which finished 2-1 for Hibernian.
Coach Stewart Taylor was enthusiastic about the progress of the team, "Our games have given us a chance to look at all the players, different combinations and different formations. We are much closer to knowing what suits us best. They have very good potential and we can see signs of them coming together."
In Scotland's other games the squad has been slightly hampered by the availability of all the players as the players juggle with their club commitment, school exams, illness and slight injury. On 29th December Alloa FC provided opposition at Toryglen when Scotland ran out 4-1 winners. Aaron Splaine (Douglas Ewart HS) scored from Scotland’s first corner kick of the match. Chris Hendrie (Balerno HS) added a second-half double before his school mate, Callum Crane (also Balerno HS) scored a spectacular right-foot volley. Alloa scored a late goal just before full time in a game played on the indoor pitch at Toryglen.
Dundee United travelled south to Toryglen to play on Thursday 17th January with a young team. In a good game Scotland did dominate and made a number of great chances before finally scoring midway through the second half when Chris Hendrie netted from close in. Callum Crane eventually got the goal his play deserved just before the end as Scotland finished 2-0 winners.
A big effort was made at Forthbank Stadium to clear the astro pitch of snow to allow the third preparation game to take place against Stirling Albion on Tuesday 22nd January. Stirling scored early before Daniel McDonald (Abronhill HS) netted an equaliser. When defender Chris O’Neil (St.Ambrose HS) was caught in possession Stirling restored their lead. Scott Fullerton (Forfar Ac.) then secured a second equaliser when he drove along the bye-line before his cut-back was unavoidably turned into goal by a Stirling defender.
At the start of the second period further slack defending allowed Stirling to score a third goal that turned out to be the winning goal.
The SSFA is extremely grateful to the senior clubs who have provided opposition for these vital preparation games.