Michael O’Halloran says pairing with Gregg Wylde can pay off
Michael O’Halloran believes his understanding with Bolton team-mate Gregg Wylde can help Scotland Under-21s if they are unleashed together in next month’s European qualifiers.
The pair started on Tuesday night in Scotland’s front three along with Peter Pawlett during a 1-0 friendly defeat by Belgium at East End Park.
With Jordan Rhodes called into the full squad, O’Halloran could be in line to play against Luxembourg and Austria next month as Scotland look to seal a play-off place.
Wylde moved from Rangers to Bolton in March and reformed a partnership with O’Halloran stretching back a decade.
O’Halloran said: “I’m really close with Gregg, we always share a room when we are away.
“It was good he came down. I used to be with him at Celtic and even boys’ club level so it was good to be reunited with him. I’ve known him since we were nine or ten, playing together.
“He tried to get a few crosses in and I always try to get on the end of them. I know how he plays, Gregg tries to take his man on and I know if I get in the box, he will put it in there. He knows how I play and I know how he plays, so that helps.”
O’Halloran was making his first start for the under-21s after gaining some first-team experience on loan to Sheffield United earlier this year, his final match coming in a play-off final defeat by Huddersfield.
“It was disappointing to miss out on promotion but it was good experience and I got to play at Wembley so it will help me in the long run,” he said.
“The manager has given me a chance and I’ll just keep working hard and see what happens. If I get the opportunity this season I’m ready.”
The 20-year-old added: “I’m ready at any time for Scotland and it was good to get my first start. I got a wee taste against Holland but it’s always good to get a longer spell in the team.
“It was a good test, they were a really good side and kept the ball well. It was disappointing to lose but it’s a friendly and it’s early in the season.”
Scotland Under-21 coach Billy Stark said that he plans to work on his team’s attacking play ahead of their final European qualifiers.
Scotland lacked a cutting edge at East End Park and failed to seriously test the visiting goalkeeper as Ziggy Badibanga’s 57th-minute strike proved the difference.
Stark was missing his front three from the previous game. As well as Rhodes, who scored eight of Scotland’s 11 goals in six qualifiers, Gary Mackay-Steven was also absent after suffering a knock on his knee and Johnny Russell had tweaked his groin during Dundee United’s 5-0 defeat by Dynamo Moscow.
Stark, whose side are looking to maintain a top-two spot in their group after playing Luxembourg and Austria next month, said: “The one thing we know we need to improve on is that belief in playing through teams.
“We are accomplished enough in defending and taking the ball, but we need to have better options in front of them. That’s where the Belgians had the upper hand. Their movement was better.
“We were a wee bit short in that front department, we would have liked to have tested them a bit more.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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