Stark proud despite Euro failure

PA Sport
Billy Stark's Scotland Under-21 side have missed out on the European Championship finals
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Billy Stark's Scotland Under-21 side have missed out on the European Championship finals

Scotland Under-21 head coach Billy Stark remains full of pride for his team after they just came up short in their bid to reach the play-offs for the European Championship finals.

Scotland lost their unbeaten record in their Group 10 campaign after conceding an injury-time goal in a 3-2 defeat by Austria in Altach on Monday night.

The final goal came on the counter-attack as Scotland threw men forward in a bid to claim a goal that would have put them among the four best runners-up that join the 10 group winners in the play-offs.

Stark, whose side were assured of second place before the game, told www.scottishfa.co.uk: "Obviously we are all very disappointed to have lost the match and to have missed out on the play-offs but I'm very proud of the team because they have been excellent throughout this campaign and gave us reason to be optimistic going into last night's game.

"We've picked up some excellent results along the way, with the victory away to the Netherlands a notable example, and the team have played like real men.

"We kept the campaign alive right until the last game but unfortunately we couldn't get the result we needed to see us progress."

Scotland started poorly and Michael Gregoritsch headed an eighth-minute opener. But the visitors came back into it around the half-hour mark and were level nine minutes after the break when Tony Watt reacted well to nod home after Johnny Russell had flicked on Danny Wilson's long free-kick.

Russell put Scotland ahead in the 74th minute when he tapped in following Watt's driven cross, but Aston Villa striker Andreas Weimann headed an equaliser 90 seconds later after the Scots failed to deal with a cross and Raphael Holzhauser broke away in injury time to deliver a cruel end to the campaign.

Stark said: "We deserved to be behind at half-time. But we looked more like ourselves in the second half and really took the game to Austria. We created chances and managed to get ourselves into a winning position but couldn't manage to hold on to the lead and, as in Bulgaria, we conceded a just a minute or two later.

"I still felt positive that we could find the winning goal but Austria are a dangerous team and they caught us on the counter-attack in injury time as we pushed bodies forward. I was so pleased with the way the boys came back into the match last night, they lifted their performance and showed real desire and hunger."

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