Kieran Sweeney goal helps Scotland U18 draw with Alloa

In the midst of the Christmas festivities. a slightly depleted Under-18 Scotland Schools side drew 1-1 with Alloa Athletic in a friendly indoors at Toryglen.

But, considering the number of absentees, it was an encouraging first squad preparation for the teenagers.

It was the internationalists who started the brighter. In the best move of the opening stages George Stanger freed Euan O’Reilly down the right-hand side.

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The energetic wide-man’s cross was well gathered by Alloa goalkeeper Andrew Wilson, a former schoolboy cap.

Unfortunately, his opposite number, Ronan Fallons, did not have a chance to make a mistake before he found himself picking the ball out of his net.

After nine minutes of play, a long ball from the Alloa defence allowed their centre-forward to battle with the Scotland defence. His persistence paid off as he latched on to the loose ball and drilled it low into the net from around 12 yards.

Scotland attempted to battle back and the two Camerons – Ballantyne and McGrory – were at the centre of the action.

Ballantyne showed excellent poise to glide away from a couple of opponents before slipping the ball to Kieran Sweeney on the right edge of the box.

His powerful shot to the near post was well saved by Wilson. Seconds later McGrory battled to find himself in possession in the middle of the park. A clever ball to Declan Glass allowed for a quick turn and shot, but the ball was just over the crossbar.

The forward-going Scotland players started to show more confidence in attack.

Following an O’Reilly run and cross, the ball was only partially cleared to Glass, who dribbled past a posse of men, but shot narrowly over the crossbar.

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Sweeney was next involved, turning past two defenders, only to see his shot deflected wide. He then combined well with Ballantyne to try to fashion a chance for the midfielder but sheer weight of numbers in the box thwarted any chance of a shot at goal.

With all of this pressure, it was hardly surprising when Scotland scored just after the half-hour mark.

McGrory broke well in the middle of the Alloa half. He spotted a clever diagonal run by Kieran Sweeney, and the forward did the rest with powerful low finish past Wilson in the Alloa goal and it was 1-1 at half-time.

Scotland made four changes at half-time as Jamie Chapman, Ross Connelly, Nathan Brown and Adam Brown replaced Banner, Fallons, Kelly and Sweeney.

The changes did not alter the level of attack, and Ballantyne was unlucky not to be rewarded with a goal when his powerful 22-yard shot thumped off the post in the second minute of the second half.

McGrory was again involved a couple of minutes later. His intelligent pass found Stanger galloping up the right.

The full-back’s low cross was just a fraction out of reach of the youngsters in the penalty box.

Stanger was becoming a real attacking threat for Scotland, and his next incursion found Robbie Bruce at the back corner of the six-yard box, but Wilson smothered quickly at his near post.

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Still Scotland attempted to probe, as Bruce found Adam Brown in the area, and the forward’s sharp effort on the turn was just past the post, then O’Reilly passed to McGrory on the edge of the area, but the powerful shot was slightly high.

Alloa continued to try steal a goal – a free-kick that pin-balled around the Scottish penalty area threatening to prove expensive for the schoolboys.

But the game drew to a close – and the draw was probably a fair result.

Scotland team: Ronan Fallons (St Modan’s High School), George Stanger Dunblane High School), Adam Kirkwood (Stranraer Academy), Kyle Banner (Graeme High School), John Kelly (Trinity High School), Robbie Bruce (Buckie High School), Euan O’Reilly (Community School Auchterarder), Calvin McGrory (Eastwood High School), Kieran Sweeney (St Kentigern’s Academy), Cameron Ballantyne (Glasgow Academy) , Declan Glass (Ross High School),

Substitutes: Adam Brown (Grove Academy), Ross Connelly (Graeme High School), Nathan Brown (Stewart’s Melville College), Jamie Chapman (Edinburgh College).