HAS a goalless draw ever felt quite so glorious?

Scotland may, despite producing a gutsy, composed and occasionally inspired display of which the entire nation could be proud, have just failed to defeat England at Wembley for the first time in 22 years last night.

But this result was every bit as sweet as the 1-0 triumph their predecessors recorded in the second leg of the Euro 2000 play-off back in 1999. Much more so in fact.

It breathed life into their hopes of reaching the last 16 of Euro 2020, of progressing to the knockout rounds of a major tournament for the first time in their history, and erased the memory of the painful opening defeat to the Czech Republic on Monday.

Steve Clarke, their manager who got his team selection and tactics spot on, had expressed hope that being involved in these finals would lift the spirits of his compatriots after a difficult 15 months which have been blighted by Covid-19. His men achieved that last night.

The Tartan Army gave them a standing ovation after the final whistle blew last night after cheering them from the first kick of the ball to the last. It was a pleasure to be present on such a joyous occasion.  

There is much work still to be done. Scotland have to beat Croatia, the Russia 2018 finalists, at Hampden on Tuesday if they are to achieve their objective. That remains a huge ask. But if they acquit themselves as well as they did last night they have every chance. It promises, like this, to be quite an evening.  

Before kick-off there were fears of a heavy defeat for Scotland. Harry Kane, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling were expected to wreak havoc. But Clarke made two changes at the back in an attempt to nullify the threat their revered forwards posed. Kieran Tierney returned after injury and Scott McTominay slotted in alongside Grant Hanley as Liam Cooper and Jack Hendry dropped out.

Clarke had stated before the tournament got underway that McTominay would play in his favoured position in central midfield due to the absence of Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean. But desperate times require desperate measures. The gamble paid off. The Manchester United man had one of his best games for his adopted homeland. 

Clarke also drafted Chelsea kid Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor of Celtic into his midfield alongside as Stuart Armstrong dropped to the bench.

There had been a huge clamour among the Tartan Army for Gilmour to be brought in after the opening defeat. But it was still asking a lot of a lad who only turned 20 this month and who had played less than 45 minutes of international football.

However, Gilmour and McGregor were superb and Scotland dominated in the centre of the park. They ensured their team retained possession to a far great degree than they had four days earlier and distributed the ball quickly and accurately. The youngster was named Man of the Match.

Che Adams, who had done well in the Czech game after coming on at the beginning of the second-half, was handed a place in the starting line-up by Clarke as expected. He dovetailed brilliantly with Lyndon Dykes up front. They won countless high balls and caused their opponents all kinds of difficulties.

Gareth Southgate, whose men had beaten Croatia 1-0 on Sunday, changed both of his full-backs. Reece James and Luke Shaw came in for Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier respectively. Within seconds of the match kicking off, Dykes had flattened Shaw as he challenged for the ball in the air. It was a declaration of intent.

Adams went close in just the fourth minute after a well-worked attack down the right. Stephen O’Donnell cut the ball back and the striker hit it well only for John Stones to block. It was a positive start. 

Stones, though, should have put England ahead when he slipped his marker at a Mason Mount corner eight minutes later. The centre half’s header was powerful and David Marshall would have been beaten had it not struck the right post.

Mount himself went close shortly after that near thing after Sterling had nutmegged McTominay. His effort slid just wide. They were anxious moments for Andy Robertson and his team mates.

Still, the huge contingent of Scottish fans in the 25,000-strong crowd were, those two scares aside, encouraged by much of what they saw and drowned out their counterparts with their cheering and chanting.

Tierney, who made, as expected, a huge difference to his side both in defence and attack, volleyed wide from long-range with an ambitious long-range effort. But he supplied O’Donnell with an inch-perfect delivery from the left soon after that his team mate met cleanly and was unlucky not to bury.

The much-maligned Motherwell full-back hit a ferocious first-time volley which Jordan Pickford did brilliantly to keep out of his net with his outstretched right arm. 

Adams got in a follow-up header which went just wide. But Scotland were the better side towards the end of the first-half. They had more attempts on goal and shots on target. They were roared back down the tunnel by the away support.

England stepped up a gear at the start of the second-half and Scotland had Tierney and Marshall to thank for keeping them on level terms. The former made two vital goalmouth clearances in quick succession and the latter palmed a dipping Mount volley out for a corner.

But Clarke’s men responded. Dykes fed Adams in the opposition area only for the forward to be muscled off the ball. The blonde-haired target man then had a volley headed off the line by James after a Robertson corner.

It was end-to-end, tense beyond belief, a compelling contest that it was just impossible to take your eyes off for a second.

Southgate threw on Jack Grealish for the disappointing Foden and Marcus Rashford for Kane in an attempt to inject energy and creativity into England’s play in the final third. Shaw soon whipped an attempt just wide after cutting in from the left and getting the better of O’Donnell.

Gilmour went off to a standing ovation from the supporters with 14 minutes left and was replaced by Armstrong. The substitute had soon teed up Adams with a shot. Grant Hanley then produced the tackle of the match when Rashford looked poised to break through on the counter.

Clarke put on Kevin Nisbet for Adams with seven minutes remaining. The striker was unable to supply the goal that secured a famous victory. But none of the Scotland fans were complaining. On to Croatia.