Young Scots draw a blank against Bulgaria in opener

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Scotland Under-21 manager Billy Stark feels their UEFA qualifying group will be an open affair as he reflected on an first-match draw with Bulgaria at St Mirren Park.

Bulgaria, who lost to Holland in their opening home encounter, sat in for large parts of the game and celebrated the goalless draw after surviving some late pressure.

Stark felt his side could have played with a greater tempo but was not unhappy with the display. “The thing about this group, my feeling is there are certainly teams capable of cutting each other up,” he said.

“Holland found it very difficult in Bulgaria and obviously scored with ten minutes to go and won the game, which is a terrific result for them. With Austria coming into the mix as well, there are games which are winnable and loseable. Maybe Holland won’t be the overriding favourites that everyone thought they might be.”

Scotland were inspired by Scott Allan in an otherwise tight first half, the Dundee United midfielder shooting just wide from 22 yards before setting up Jordan Rhodes, who was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

Allan, who suffered a thigh strain late in the game, produced a string of glorious touches in the Bulgarian half but was less effective after the break as Scotland lost their width in a tactical switch.

Bulgaria tested Rangers goalkeeper Grant Adam on several occasions but Scotland came back into it in the final quarter of the game with Johnny Russell forcing a decent save.

“It’s fair to say that, the way they were set up, we relied on Scotty to be the creator,” Stark said. “He found some good positions and he worked some good positions as well with good feet and good ability.

“He was instrumental in any of the close things we had in the first half. I don’t remember Bulgaria having a chance to speak of in the first half.

“They had some good situations (in the second half) but I was really pleased with the effort we showed to get back and do anything we could to make sure we didn’t lose a goal.”