Miller's strike sets Scotland on their way

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3
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The Independent Online

Kenny Miller led from the front last night, scoring the opening goal, his pride at being captain shining through in his display as Scotland kept pace with the Republic of Ireland after the first two Nations Cup matches.

It was a resounding victory for the Scots with James McArthur and Kris Commons also netting and it could very easily have been by a wider margin.

Scotland manager Craig Levein was delighted with his team's performance. "We played very well," he said. "I have been talking about players at their clubs playing at a very high standard and how much improvement there has been in a lot of players in the last year.

"But it is one thing me talking about it. It is important the players take that onto the pitch and prove I am not talking a lot of rubbish."

Scotland should have taken the lead when Commons raced on to a long Phil Bardsley ball to cross for Miller, but he blazed well over. But Miller made amends in the 19th minute. Bardsley flicked on a Charlie Adam corner and the former Rangers and Celtic man turned home from close range as Jonathan Tuffey and Stephen Craigan failed to clear.

Scotland almost had a second when Steven Caldwell headed another Adam corner against the bar. On an unsavoury note, an object was thrown at Adam from the crowd as he took the corner.

Northern Ireland were fortunate to escape after Commons created a shooting opportunity with a nice touch from a Bardsley pass but Gareth McAuley got his body in the way.

A second goal seemed inevitable and arrived in the 32nd minute as McArthur celebrated his late call-up with a first international strike – but it may not have been intended. The midfielder looked up from the corner of the area and appeared to cross to the back post but the ball looped over Tuffey and in.

Bardsley forced Tuffey to tip over with a powerful drive and the Sunderland defender also had a penalty claim denied after a tug from McAuley and possible handball from Chris Baird seconds later. James Morrison then headed at Tuffey as Scotland threatened again but Niall McGinn did have a good shot deflected wide at the other end.

Rory Patterson had a good chance after a smart turn on the edge of the box following the interval but Allan McGregor saved low to his right.

Scotland continued to cut through the Irish defence with ease and neat interplay between Morrison and Steven Naismith set up Commons, who fired through Tuffey's legs for a third.

Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass came off the bench to win his first Scotland cap and was soon in the action, curling a shot narrowly over the bar as Scotland maintained their dominance.

Northern Ireland (4-5-1): Tuffey; McArdle (Hodson, h-t), Baird, McAuley, Craigan (Thompson, 66); Evans, McCourt, Davis, Patterson, McCann (Healy, h-t); McGinn (Boyce, 72). Substitutes not used Blayney (gk), Norwood.

Scotland (4-5-1): McGregor; Hutton, S Caldwell, Berra, Bardsley (M Wilson, 57); Adam (Bannan, 57), Naismith (Snodgrass, 57), Morrison (Maguire, 79), Commons (Conway, 72), McArthur; Miller (D Wilson, 90). Substitutes not used Bell (gk), Hanley, G Caldwell.

Referee T Connolly (Ireland).

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