Spit and little polish as Scots suffer in Spain

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The Scotland Under-21 goalkeeper Graeme Smith claimed he was spat on by an elderly fan after being substituted in his side's 3-1 loss to Spain in Valencia on Friday night.

The Scotland Under-21 goalkeeper Graeme Smith claimed he was spat on by an elderly fan after being substituted in his side's 3-1 loss to Spain in Valencia on Friday night.

The incident was one of a catalogue of bad-tempered moments in a so-called friendly game that saw the young Scots lead at half-time but play the final 45 minutes with 10 men following the dismissal of David Clarkson.

Smith was replaced by Everton's Iain Turner after the Spanish had been awarded a penalty that allowed Real Betis defender Juan Melli to complete the home side's comeback. As he set off to join his team-mates in the away dugout, Smith was astonished when a fan spat in his face. He said: "When I was walking down the touchline an old boy spat on me. It wasn't very nice, but that sort of thing happens over here.

"There was a great atmosphere and it is good to play in games like this, but it's a different matter when a supporter spits in your face. He got me right in the eye, but I had a towel on my shoulder so I just wiped it away and smiled at him.

"I didn't want to let him think he had bothered me. I hadn't made any gestures towards the supporters so I don't know why he did it."

Scotland's coach, Rainer Bonhof, had decided to take off the Rangers goalkeeper, who is Stefan Klos's understudy at Ibrox, because he had been so angry at the penalty award. The Scots were convinced substitute Jonathan had dived to con the Italian referee, Gianluca Paparesta. Smith said: "I was eight yards away when he gave the penalty and I couldn't believe it." It was not the first time that the young Spaniards had been tempted to dive, and a dubious free-kick provided an equaliser from the excellent Andres Iniesta.

Some hard-nosed professionalism is being instilled into Wales Under-21s - and not before time, after one recent spell of 26 games without a win. Under their new manager, Glyn Hodges, times have changed. He and his assistant, Clayton Blackmore, learned their craft at the highest level, with Wimbledon and Manchester United. Wales once went five seasons without a win at this level, but under Hodges they have yet to concede a goal in two matches and started their European Championship qualifiers with a 1-0 win over Azerbaijan in Baku.

They finished with 10 men when Stuart Jones was sent off, but Matthew Crowell grabbed a late winner. Hodges said: "Nobody gives you anything at this level, and you have to handle everything that is thrown at you. They did that and I'm proud of them."

Hodges' side face England in their next match at Blackburn next month. He added: "We will be going into that one full of confidence. We have managed successive clean sheets and certainly looked dangerous and positive and deserved the win, even if we did end with 10 men.

"I suppose you could say it was an inspired substitution. But all I was doing was trying to get midfield men on to dig in and get a draw, then Matty gets away and scores a great goal with his left foot."

The Republic of Ireland Under-21s manager, Don Givens, has warned his players they will have to raise their game. A 3-0 scoreline against Cyprus in the opening qualifier at Kilkenny's Buckley Park was the perfect start for Givens and his squad, the win stretching their unbeaten run to 13 matches. Givens, though, felt nerves played a part in what he believes was an off-key opening half, and he knows that his side cannot afford a similar display against Switzerland in Bern on Tuesday.

"When we face Switzerland it will be a different kettle of fish," said Givens. "We will have to be better than we were tonight, which is why I tried to lift them at half-time, because we weren't at our top level. The opposition does not matter, we would have struggled against anybody the way we passed the ball in the opening 20 minutes, but we came through in the end."

Swansea's goalkeeper Brian Murphy barely touched the ball such was Ireland's dominance, although they only had the Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Glen Murphy's maiden goal in the 34th minute to show for their industry.

After the break it was a different story, as first Blackburn defender John Fitzgerald maintained his impressive scoring record with his fourth goal in seven games, then, 12 minutes from time, Cork City striker Kevin Doyle scored his third goal in six appearances.

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