Smith’s Ireland complete unbeaten week with Scottish draw

Senior Women’s International match
Ireland 1 (Nikki Symmons) Scotland 1 (Nikki Lloyd)

** Interview piece with Darren Smith to follow

Ireland completed their week unbeaten as they played out a 1-1 draw with Scotland at Newtownabbey, adding to a pair of wins over the Scots along with Monday’s draw with Wales.

Perhaps understandably after a busy week of four matches in five days with both sides ringing the changes throughout, it was a stop-start affair with both sides exhibiting a high number of technical errors.

Indeed, the first half was a particularly ragged, marked by a series of corners – Ireland with three, Scotland five – but few shots accrued from them with problems occurring for both sides with the pull-out and stop.

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The pick of the chances came in the minute before half-time as Susan McGilveray’s long ball made it 70m forward to Sarah Robertson peeling away from goal. She crossed for Sam Judge who got a fine touch but Emma Gray got down brilliantly to smother the ball and while it spun slowly goalwards, it was eventually cleared.

Beyond that, there was plenty of toil but not too much accuracy. Michelle Harvey fresh-aired from Ireland’s first penalty corner chances as Lisa Jacob when set through down the right wing.

Nicola Skrastin pumped one off Gray’s pads after a loose clearance fell her way while Scotland scuppered four corner moves without drawing a save while a fifth was cleared calmly by Nicola Gray. Audrey O’Flynn did draw a low save from Amy Gibson before Judge’s chance leaving it scoreless at the break.

The initial phases of the second half followed a similar pattern with Michelle Harvey and Linda Clement binned for rough tackles while a corner each were spurned. Anna O’Flanagan, though, was becoming the key player, her determination yielding openings that were not apparent elsewhere.

From an overhead that others missed, she bounded through and tested Gibson while her hit into the mixer yielded the game’s first goal from a corner. To avoid the troublesome top of the D, it wa pushed out wide to the left to O’Flanagan and her shot bounced up in front of Gibson with injector Nikki Symmons getting the critical touch for 1-0 in the 51st minute.

Scotland levelled two minutes later, though, as Judge fired across goal and Caitriona Ralph’s deflection chipped up and in off the post.

Gray was called on to make another superb save to keep it that way as Linda Clement tore down the left before her angled pass was deflected goalwards by Ali Bell. Vikki Bunce’s follow-up was also saved by the keeper.

Down the stretch, Ireland had the better chances to win the tie, their sixth and seventh corners both denied while Lisa Jacob missed out twice. The first came from Shirley McCay’s exquisite reverse stick cross, touching wide at the back post, the other a flashing reverse which Gibson did brilliantly to block from close quarters in a rousing late salvo.

Following this week’s efforts, Smith will bring the panel to Cork for a three-day training camp while he confirmed the squad will be trimmed in the coming weeks with a view toward the European championships. To that end, the panel was reduced to 26 this week with Kate Dillon departing for South America for travel plans that predated her international call-up.

After consultation with Smith, it was agreed that she should take up those plans but is likely to return to the panel after the Europeans.

Ireland: E Gray, M Harvey, N Gray, N Atcheler, N Symmons, S McCay, M Frazer, G Pinder, A O’Flynn, K Mullan, N Small
Subs: N Carroll, L Jacob, N Daly, E Smyth, A Meeke, A O’Flynn, G O’Flanagan

Scotland: A Gibson, E Maguire, B Merchant, A Bell, K Marshall, M McLellan, N Lloyd, S Judge, V Bunce, S McGilveray, C Ralph
Subs: N Kidd, N Skrastin, H Cram, A Davis, S Robertson, L Clement, N Cochrane

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