THE excellence of Hibernian’s youth academy was demonstrated as Scotland extended their unbeaten run to five against Iceland in Reykjavik on Saturday night.
Scorers: Iceland - Gunnarsdottir (26), Magnusdottir (51); Scotland - Crichton (12), Thomson (14), L Ross (34)
On a cold and wet evening, the Scots held on for a deserved victory in a friendly at the Laugardalsvollur National Stadium, despite having four teenagers and a 20-year-old on the pitch at the final whistle. Three were given their first taste of international football when they came on as second-half substitutes – Claire Emslie, Siobhan Hunter and Caroline Weir, who is just 17.
All are products of the Hibs youth system, although Emslie is now studying criminology at university in Florida. Two other players from the Edinburgh club, Frankie Brown and Joelle Murray, also played big parts in the win.
The outcome seemed unlikely when Scotland, already missing their first choice back four, were hit by he late withdrawals of star player Kim Little and, on the afternoon of the game, striker Emma Mitchell, who had a migraine.
The fringe players stepped up to the plate admirably and the visitors dominated the first half, deservedly leading 3-1 at half time, with first international goals for Leanne Crichton and Emily Thomson, followed by a third from right back Leanne Ross.
The Scots suffered yet another blow near the end of the half when midfielder Jo Love, their most experienced outfield player, went off injured, and they then lost Ross and Jenny Beattie early in the second period.
Unsurprisingly the Icelanders, who made four changes at half-time, got on top, but failed to add to their 51st-minute second goal thanks to Scotland goalkeeper Gemma Fay and some stout defending.
“It shows what good talent we have coming through in Scotland when we can bring on three debutants and still win,” Scotland coach Anna Signeul pointed out.
“All of them did exceptionally well. We attacked very well in the first half, playing some great combinations, and then showed a lot of fight to hold on to what we had in the second period.”
Three of the teams Scotland have beaten in their five-game unbeaten run – Italy, Holland and Iceland – have all qualified for next month’s European Championship in Sweden. Signeul’s side also drew with England, another of the 12 finalists.
“Of course it makes us sad that we’re not going to Sweden, but we will continue to work hard and develop further as a side,” promised Signeul. “We are not going to take a step back because we didn’t qualify.”
Full back Ross added: “We controlled the tempo in the first half, and moved the ball about really well but then they came out and pressed us in the second 45 minutes. We had to dig in to get the result. Unfortunately we’re not at the Euros, but our aim is the World Cup now. The qualifying games start later this year and we know on our day we can beat anybody.”
Scotland women: Fay, Lauder, Beattie (McSorley 60), Brown, L Ross (Emslie 62), Thomson, Sneddon, Crichton (Weir 77), Love (J Murray 40), Evans (Hunter 87), J Ross. Subs not used: Lynn, Mitchell.