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Scotland held by Wales, but Victory Shield hopes remain alive

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Tuesday afternoon saw a brave Wales side fight back from two goals down to clinch at a draw with Scotland in the Victory Shield at the Oriam Centre.
This match started in the manner you would expect from a home nations match, frantic pace, little time to get the ball down and mostly one-touch play. Both sides were equipping a high pressing style and it had a big impact early on, where a long ball down the channels looked the most probable route to goal.
Scotland had the majority of possession in the opening half and looked to have it in the more dangerous areas of the pitch, but the majority of their efforts on goal were either snuffed out at the last moment by a Welsh boot or simply blasted high over the ball from just outside the box.
Although they certainly were the first side to get a foothold in the match and pass the ball around, with Wales struggling to string together moves and get up the field, they were pinned back relentlessly by the Scottish pressure.
As a result, Scotland deservedly scored their first and second goal, both around the half-an-hour mark, both courtesy of Jamie Semple, who managed to peel away from the Welsh defenders at the back-post on both occasions.
One man who was at the heartbeat of everything good for the Scots was Billy Gilmour; the small, yet skillful and determined midfielder always seemed to have time whenever the ball came to his feet, and with some wicked deliveries he managed to put Wales’ back four under pressure on several occasions, as well as rattling the post with a driven shot.
Wales made one change in the second-half which was one of the decisive factors in their comeback in the second 40 minutes. The introduction of Jack Vale on the left-wing was a smart one, as he caused havoc for the remainder of the match and looked most likely to make something happen whenever he came in from the left.
The visitors were straight out of the blocks in retrieving something from this game, as the attacking substitution paid off and Issak Davies finished off at the back post to put Scotland under immediate pressure to hold onto their lead.
With so many attacking options when Wales broke away, there was just too many players to mark and thus Wales looked capable of making something happen frequently in the second-half, with the Scottish defence unsure who to mark at times.
With the introduction of the much spoken about Karamoko Dembele, the hosts looked to grab a third rather than sit back and hold onto what they had, with four attack-minded players on the pitch at once, Scotland looked to use their opponent’s tactics and outnumber the defenders.
With a lull in the game midway through the second-half, Scotland looked to have changed their approach and became more cautious, switching to a 4-2-3-1 while Wales brought on two strikers to play up top at the same time. This certainly shifted the tempo of the game and left Wales looking the more dominant of the two as 20 minutes remained.
Ryan Mullen had being doing an exemplary job in goals to prevent a second Welsh goal, but it would prove to be too much when Ryan Astley caught a first-time volley beautifully to level things up with five minutes left.
Clearly dejected with the goal, Scotland looked as if they dreaded the possibility of a loss, and went back to an attacking formation, playing with a 4-3-3 in the closing stages, whilst Wales were able to keep them out an ensure a well-deserved point after what looked like a lost cause.
The late Wales goal means there will be no two teams level at the top of the Victory Shield table. Scotland know a win against Republic of Ireland will see them victorious and any other result will result in Irish triumph.

Gregor Kerr | YFS South East Region Journalist
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