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McPhail and Stokes impress as Ireland fail to take their chances

Republic of Ireland “B” 0 - 0 Scotland “B”

Ireland and Scotland played out a stalemate as all 18 of the Republic's players got a run-out at Dalymount Park in the “B” International friendly.

Both teams had chances to break the deadlock over the course of the match but it was Ireland who had the more opportunities of clinching victory.

Ireland adopted a 4-4-2 formation, using Andrew Keogh and Roy O'Donovan as the front pairing. Captain Stephen McPhail and 19-year old Darron Gibson formed the midfield axis, allowing Joe Gamble and Alan O'Brien to channel the flanks.

Scotland who were buoyed by the presence of senior manager Walter Smith on the bench - lined up with Ranger striker Kris Boyd acting up front in attack, with Stephen Pearson of Celtic operating just behind.

Roy O'Donovan came closest to opening the scoring after 27 minutes when his Cork City team-mate spotted him in space on the right side of the penalty area but the striker's shot from ten yards was blocked out for a corner by Scots 'keeper Paul Gallacher.

Gamble blazed a shot over the crossbar from just inside of the penalty area on the quarter-hour mark.

Right full-back Steven Whittaker of Hibs fashioned an early chance for Scotland when he cut inside after eleven minutes before driving the ball low and wide.

Kris Boyd tried his luck from a free-kick after five minutes before half-time but his effort nestled into the side-netting. Scott Brown earned the free-kick right on the edge of the box when he was shoved by Darron Gibson but the he was furious that the English referee didn't adjudge that the offence occurred inside of the penalty area.

Ireland winger Alan O'Brien sustained what seemed a shoulder injury and had to be substituted by Reading flanker Stephen Hunt two minutes before half-time. The Newcastle player was just beginning to grasp control of the game and his injury deprived him the chance of impressing the on-looking Irish manager Stephen Staunton.

Ireland captain Stephen McPhail dictated matters in the midfield during the opening 45 minutes, threading precise passes from his left-foot, but he left the contest at half-time to be replaced by Darren Potter.

Arsenal's in-form striker Anthony Stokes currently the talk of Scotland for his goal-scoring feats on loan at Falkirk was part of a treble substitution made by Pat Devlin five minutes into the second half. Joe O'Cearuill and Lee Frecklington were also introduced but it was the appearance of Stokes that aroused most interest from the home support.

The 18-year old showed a glimpse of his youthful brilliance with his first involvement in the match within minutes of coming into the fray. A quick shimmy past his marker on the half-way line triggered a four-man move that finished with Hunt bursting in the box only to fall over under the challenge of visiting captain Webster.

Stokes was again at the hub Ireland's next worthwhile attack on 74 minutes when sprinting down the right side and picking out Andy Keogh with a pinpoint cross. The Scunthorpe striker was lurking on the six-yard box but his attempted shot miscued and bobbled up into the hands of Scottish reserve 'keeper Mark Brown.

It was then the turn of Joe Gamble to profit from Stokes' good build-up play with eight minutes remaining. A raft of Scottish players tried to curb a dribbling run by Stokes but he released the ball to Gamble on the edge of the box and the Cork City midfielder tested goalkeeper Brown with a shot that he needed to turn around the post for a corner.

Scotland found chances limited in the second half but of the ones that came their way, Steven Naismith came nearest to snatching a winner when his shot from 20-yards following a swiftly taken free-kick was spilled by Irish 'keeper Randolph but the Charlton 'keeper recovered well to palm the ball away to safety.

No goals at Dalymount but the occasion marked the first 'B' International fixture for Ireland in eight years and more games are planned for next year to allow fringe players push their prospects of gaining promotion to Ireland's senior panel.

TEAMS:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND “B”:
Darren Randolph (Charlton Athletic);
Kevin Foley (Luton Town)
Paddy McCarthy (Leicester City)
Alex Bruce (Ipswich Town)
Lewis Emmanuel (Luton Town)
Joe Gamble (Cork City)
Stephen McPhail (Cardiff City) captain
Darron Gibson (Royal Antwerp)
Alan O'Brien (Newcastle United)
Andy Keogh (Scunthorpe)
Roy O'Donovan (Cork City).

Substitutes:
Stephen Hunt (Reading) for O'Brien - 44 mins.
Darren Potter (Wolverhampton Wanderers) for McPhail 46 mins.
Joe O'Cearuill (Arsenal) for Bruce 51 mins
Lee Frecklington (Lincoln City) for Gibson - 51 mins.
Anthony Stokes (Falkirk) for O'Donovan 51 mins
Shane Long (Reading) for Keogh - 77 mins
Darren Quigley (UCD) for Randolph 86 mins.

SCOTLAND “B”:
Paul Gallacher (Norwich City)
Steven Whittaker (Hibernian)
Steven Smith (Rangers)
Kirk Broadfoot (St Mirren)
Andy Webster (Wigan Athletic) - captain
Michael Stewart (Hibernian)
Steven Naismith (Kilmarnock)
Scott Brown (Hibernian)
Stephen Pearson (Celtic)
Kris Boyd (Rangers)
Chris Clark (Aberdeen)
SUBSTITUTES:
Mark Brown (Inverness Caledonian Thistle) for Gallacher 46 mins.
Gordon Greer (Kilmarnock) for Broadfoot 54 mins.
Lee Miller (Aberdeen) for Brown 54 mins.
Jay McEveley (Blackburn Rovers) for Clark 60 mins.
Charlie Adam (Rangers) for Smith 60 mins.

REFEREE: Martin Atkinson (England)

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