Football: Euro 2000: Scotland cannot profit from Hutchison's fillip

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ONCE IT was Scotland's supporters who ran riot at Wembley. For 45 heady minutes last night it was an Englishman from Gateshead who once had a name for sharing Paul Gascoigne's self-destructive streak. Yet Don Hutchison was wearing the dark blue of his father's country, and the destruction was inflicted on England's defence and inflated reputation.

Sadly, frustratingly, for the Scots, they could not add to the Everton player's goal, although heaven knows Christian Dailly came close in the final, frantic siege, only for David Seaman, their nemesis at Euro 96, to beat out his point-blank header. So in the end Scotland were left with the familiar, despised feeling of having failed gallantly.

Hampden had left Scotland with little choice other than to play the kind of game that is essentially alien to Brown's instincts. The dominant characteristic of his reign has been caution; keep things tight for 20 minutes and gradually probe for openings. without getting "psychedelic" about anything, to use one of the manager's favourite words.

In the quest for the early goal which would sew seeds of doubt in English minds, Brown abandoned his cherished 3-5-2 formation and went for the 3-4-3 last seen in the 1-0 friendly victory in Germany in March. The scorer that night in Bremen, Hutchison, was moved out of the "hole" and pushed into attack alongside Billy Dodds and Neil McCann.

Scottish supporters would have been entitled to ask why Brown had waited until the second leg to respond to their pleas of "Get intae them". In the second half on Saturday their two-goal deficit cried out for more positive tactics. But if the writing really was on Hadrian's wall, as every critic had claimed, Scotland's brightness suggested that the players had averted their gaze on the flight down.

Hutchison's inclination to drop back into midfield created the first wasted opening, when McCann's first touch from his perfectly weighted pass let him down horribly. And when Barry Ferguson rose to plant a free header over David Seaman's crossbar minutes later, one could not help feeling that it was the sort of chance which another Ferguson, the exiled enigma Duncan, would have buried.

The television monitors in the media seats showed the normally impassive Brown leaping to his feet, arms raised in anticipation, before anguish creased his features. Soon, however, he was dancing around like a dervish rather than a 59-year-old former headmaster with dodgy knees, as the two players he had brought in, Callum Davidson and McCann, combined to create Hutchison's headed goal.

In the period before half-time, Hutchison was doing to England what Paul Scholes did to the Scots in Glasgow, ghosting in from deep positions - and with the added bonus of height. Paul Ince found him as difficult to pick up as Ferguson had Scholes.

Half-time offered Kevin Keegan the opportunity to inject some life and shape into his side, yet it was Scotland who continued to look the more cohesive team after the break. Hutchison, admittedly, was more tightly policed, but the attention paid to him seemed to give John Collins greater scope to display his close skills and passing range.

Collins also exemplified the tenacity and spirit of Brown's men when he slid in nick the ball away from Michael Owen just as he appeared set to restore England's two-goal advantage. Craig Burley, too, showed the extent of Scotland's commitment when he tried to resist the referee's demands that he receive treatment on a blood-spattered face, knowing that a hold-up could see the tempo drop.

Comments