GEORGE Boyd duly delivered the flair and commitment he promised to bring to the Scotland cause when he managed to illuminate a gloomy evening in Cumbernauld last night.
The Peterborough United winger, recruited by Scotland manager George Burley on the strength of his Motherwell-born grandfather, scored a memorable goal and cleverly set up another for Livingston striker Leigh Griffiths in an ultimately convincing B international win over Northern Ireland.
The platform for Scotland's first victory at this level since 2005 was laid by Rangers defender Andy Webster's opening goal early in the second half.
But it was Kent-born Boyd, whose occasional touches of sublime skill and willingness to work hard in desperate conditions, who provided the biggest bonus for Burley from an experiment he will regard as worthwhile.
Both sides fielded six players with full international experience, but it was asking a great deal from anyone to elevate this contest beyond the mundane.
On a sodden, miserable evening in North Lanarkshire, it was not only the counter attraction of the Chelsea-Barcelona Champions League showdown on television which ensured such a poor attendance.
But for those on a heavy pitch which cut up badly in the midfield area, the incentive remained to persuade Burley they are worthy of serious consideration when the World Cup qualifying campaign resumes next season.
Steven Naismith, who won his, as-yet, solitary senior cap against the Faroe Islands two years ago, was one of the home side's livelier performers as he continues his rehabilitation from serious injury.
The Rangers striker, partnering David Clarkson of Motherwell up front, teased Northern Ireland captain Ryan McGivern into conceding a free-kick in a dangerous position which almost led to an early breakthrough for the Scots.
Steven Hammell achieved terrific pace and swerve with his left-footed set-piece delivery from the right and it appeared as though the ball crossed the line before Jonathan Tuffey, the Northern Ireland goalkeeper, managed to spoon it away.
English referee Stuart Attwell, the official who notoriously awarded the 'phantom goal' in a match between Reading and Watford this season, felt otherwise and the Partick Thistle goalkeeper was spared any embarrassment.
Celtic forward Paddy McCourt is among those with genuine hopes of forcing his way into Northern Ireland's remaining World Cup fixtures and he was denied a clear scoring chance by club-mate Scott Cuthbert's terrific interception after teenage Rangers striker Andrew Little had beaten Mark Reynolds with some ease to create the opening.
Tuffey made a decent save to keep out a long range shot from Naismith as Scotland, with Motherwell's Stephen Hughes dictating the tempo of the match from central midfield, generally produced the more cohesive football in increasingly testing conditions.
Chris Burke, another player looking to revive his senior international career, was causing the visitors concern with his pace and directness down the right. The Cardiff City winger, enjoying plenty of success against young Celtic defender Daniel Lafferty who was fielded at left-back by the Ulstermen, forced Tuffey into an awkward save with a dipping cross-cum-shot.
Boyd was seeing far less of the ball on the left flank than he would have hoped for, but he did show some enticing glimpses of ability. One terrific turn took him away from Northern Ireland right-back Robbie Weir to deliver a fine cross which McGivern was forced to turn behind his own goal for a corner.
Clarkson, wearing the captain's armband, should have put Scotland in front seven minutes before the interval but headed wide from close range after Burke and Hughes had combined neatly to set up the opportunity.
A torrential downpour during the half-time interval, which forced the substitutes of both squads to abandon their warm-ups and scurry into the dressing rooms, looked as if it may force the match to be called off as puddles formed all over the pitch.
It had subsided by the time the teams reappeared, however, and although underfoot conditions were now treacherous the game continued.
Scotland, who made three changes at the break, were grateful that it did when they took their 48th-minute lead. Brian Easton, one of the home side's newcomers, forced a corner on the left and Ian Black, another of the subs, curled the ball into the penalty area. Webster's first header was blocked by Tuffey but the big defender forced the rebound home from close range.
The advantage would have short-lived if not for the alert reactions of David Marshall. The Norwich City goalkeeper, promoted to second place in the senior Scotland set-up following the banishment of Allan McGregor, made a tremendous save at the feet of Little after loose play from the unconvincing Reynolds had presented the striker with a sight of goal.
Marshall bettered that stop when he dived to his right to claw away a sweetly struck free-kick from Manchester United youngster Oliver Norwood, one of several Northern Ireland substitutes to appear in the second half, as the visitors pushed hard for a leveller.
Appropriately enough, however, it was Boyd who would have the biggest say in a fixture he has dominated since being named in the Scotland squad.
Accepting a pass from Griffiths, who had just replaced Clarkson, the wide man showed great poise to cut in from the left and drive a tremendous low shot beyond substitute goalkeeper Trevor Carson from 22 yards.
Boyd returned the compliment for Griffiths to seal a fine win for the Scots with five minutes remaining, his excellent through ball sending the teenager racing clear to beat Carson with admirable composure.
Scotland B: Marshall (Turner 77), Cuthbert (Ross 46), Webster, Reynolds, Hammell (Easton 46), Burke (Bannan 68), Arfield (Black 46), Hughes, Boyd, Naismith, Clarkson (Griffiths 75).
Northern Ireland B: Tuffey (Carson 61), Weir (Gibb 46), Casement, McGivern, Lafferty (Duffy 61), McQuoid (Lawrie 37), O'Connor (Garrett 68), Evans, McGinn (Norwood 68); McCourt (Ferguson 68), Little.
Boyd feels a 'true Scot' after debut goal in B win
SCOTLAND manager George Burley last night hailed the impact of Peterborough United winger George Boyd in the 3-0 B international win over Northern Ireland at Broadwood Stadium and challenged him to maintain the progress necessary to force his way into next season's World Cup qualifying matches.
Boyd scored a spectacular goal and created another in a satisfying victory for Burley in Cumbernauld, vindicating the decision to call up the 23-year-old, who is eligible to represent Scotland through his Motherwell-born paternal grandfather, Richard.
The next World Cup fixture against Norway in August may prove too soon for promotion to the senior squad for Boyd, who has just helped Peterborough win promotion to the English Championship, but Burley took great encouragement from his performance. "I think George has bags of ability," said Burley. "He grew in confidence as the game went on tonight. He seems to glide past players and he has an eye for goal, which he has shown all season for Peterborough."
Boyd, who had never previously been to Scotland before joining up with the squad on Monday night, is hopeful he has done enough to force his way into Burley's World Cup plans. "It was a great feeling to score and it's been a fantastic experience," said Boyd. "I've been made really welcome by everyone and the lads in the dressing room are saying I'm a true Scot now."
Burley also welcomed the return to international action of injury-plagued Rangers defender Andy Webster, who scored Scotland's first goal. "Andy is a player I have always rated highly," said Burley. "He was tremendous for me at Hearts and he showed tonight that, given a bit of luck over the next six months or so, he can get back into the Scotland team."