Scotland’s young guns primed for a finals push

SCOTLAND’S under-21s head to Austria tomorrow night in their final qualifying fixture for next summer’s European Championship finals in Israel, knowing the right result could move them a giant step closer to a tournament the country hasn’t made it to since 1996 – although the list of potential permutations means not all the runners-up are guaranteed a play-off berth.

The young Scots geared up for the game in Altach with an ultimately convincing 3-0 win over Group 10 whipping boys Luxembourg on Thursday. Second-half strikes from Stuart Armstrong, Leigh Griffiths and a Tony Watt penalty ensured the points.

One man guaranteed to be central to hopes of taking a positive result tomorrow is West Bromwich Albion midfielder Scott Allan. The 20-year-old was outstanding in the second half on Thursday, and he is certain the Scots have enough about them to finish as one of the better group runners-up.

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He said: “It is disappointing not to get more wins than we did, especially at home where we have dropped points. However, the feeling right now is we are confident of getting the result we want over in Austria.

“I played against Austria when we drew 2-2 with them in Paisley and they were a good team who impressed me. They didn’t come here and sit in so hopefully with the onus now on them to open up at us we can find some space to pick them off.”

That 2-2 draw last October was gained courtesy of two strikes from Jordan Rhodes, who will be missing due to his involvement with the senior squad. The striker may have contributed eight of the Scots’ 14 goals thus far but Allan feels there is still enough firepower to get over the line.

He said: “Jordan is a big loss but, in Johnny Russell and Leigh Griffiths, we have two excellent strikers capable of getting goals.”

Allan’s midfield colleague, Kenny McLean of St Mirren, was equally bullish, saying: “The aim has always been the play-offs, so we are right on track. We have quality in this squad so there is no reason why we can’t get more than a play-off place and go the whole way to the championships.”