Valuable experience as City loanee helps Scotland to crucial win
- Credit: PA
Norwich City midfielder Billy Gilmour helped Scotland earn a crucial 1-0 win in Austria this evening, to strengthen World Cup qualification hopes.
It was a third start of the September international window for the 20-year-old, earning a sixth cap as manager Steve Clarke continued to show faith in the Chelsea youngster’s talent.
Having started all three of City’s opening Premier League matches, Gilmour had played all of a 2-0 defeat in Denmark and 73 minutes of a 1-0 home win over Moldova – going close to scoring in both games.
City skipper Grant Hanley also retained his place in the starting XI as World Cup qualification continued, with the Scots knowing they needed to avoid defeat in Vienna to maintain hopes of a play-off spot.
Paired in central midfield alongside Callum McGregor of Celtic in a 3-4-1-2 formation – with Kenny McLean having returned to Norwich with an injury issue – Austria made a strong start after a surprise 5-2 loss in Israel on Saturday had left them needing a win.
The tepid start from Scotland meant Gilmour saw little of the ball, trying to help out in a frantic early defensive effort and then mostly seeing the ball flying over his head as the Scots went long to get a foothold in the game.
That worked and Gilmour set Stephen O’Donnell on the attack with a sharp pass in the 23rd minute, only for the right wing-back to waste the opening with a dreadful cross.
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The youngster was jumping onto the back of striker Lyndon Dykes in celebration in the 30th minute though, after the QPR striker had emphatically converted a penalty.
Gilmour strode forward in the 44th minute but wasn’t quite on the same wavelength with Dykes as he tried a through-ball, as the Scots saw their lead through to the break, despite having just 38pc of possession.
Gilmour won a 50-50 challenge in the 53rd minute but took a shoulder to the face from former West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic as he sprung to his feet to chase after the ball, getting up after initially looking dazed.
Hanley survived a VAR penalty check shortly afterwards but was booked for a tangle before a corner was delivered. Gilmour ran the resulting clearance away from danger, finding Che Adams on the right but being unable to reach the over-hit return pass on the counter-attack.
A lovely turn from the midfielder in the 67th minute led to O’Donnell seeing a shot well saved, with Gilmour growing in importance as the visitors tried to keep possession.
It was an increasingly tense and frenetic affair as Austria desperately pushed for an equaliser but the Canaries loanee burst forward on the right in the 80th minute and got to the bye-line but his cross was headed clear.
After taking a couple of corners which came to nothing, Gilmour was replaced in the 88th minute with his team on the verge of a huge win.
It wasn’t glamorous, by any stretch of the imagination, but the youngster showed he could handle the pressure of a hard-fought and important win – which could come in handy as City search for survival this season.