The gloriously unpredictable nature of football was never better captured than by yesterday's 2-2 draw between Scotland Juniors and Northern Ireland.

To all intents and purposes, Scotland appeared to be on the road to a winning start to their Umbro Quadrangular Tournament campaign when early in the second half winger Gary McCann lashed home an unstoppable shot to put the Scots 2-0 ahead.

A poll amongst terracing supporters at that point would undoubtedly have reckoned the Keith Burgess-steered home nation were looking an odds-on bet to go on and add further goals against an Irish side adept at retaining possession but totally devoid of any attacking threat in the final third of the pitch.

But over the closing 20 minutes, Northern Ireland’s best player on the day, Ryan Campbell, netted two goals that resulted in Scotland having to settle for a share of the spoils, much to the disappointment of team captain Craig Pettigrew.

He admitted: “ I have to hold my hand up and say I should have done better for their second goal.

“The chance was there to clear the ball but the Irish lad has nicked the ball away from me and supplied a great finish from the edge of the box.

“The entire squad is gutted at yielding up a 2-0 lead and the draw feels like a defeat given the circumstances so we are all determined to make amends when facing the Republic of Ireland tomorrow night at Renfrew.

"I played in the 2010 Scotland squad that won the Tournament with seven points and I believe back to back wins against the Republic and then the Isle of Man on Saturday will see us come good again.”

Pettigrew’s self-criticism cannot mask the fact he was one of Scotland’s top performers in the McKenna Park contest, his reading of the game and positional sense allowing him to plug gaps and more often than not stride forward with the ball to spark attacking moves.

He and his team-mates got away to the best possible start when taking a 1-0 lead with barely eight minutes on the clock after a McCann cross from wide right found striker Graham Wilson in acres of space at the back post and time to control the ball and rifle home a rising shot beyond helpless Irish goalkeeper Jordan Williamson.

Northern Ireland refused to deviate from their passing style even though all of 22 minutes had elapsed before their first scoring attempt after dangerman Campbell set up Stewart Nixon with a sight of goal however Scottish No 1 Andy Leishman made his near post shot look tame.

A close thing occurred when Irish midfielder Adam Gray fizzed a shot across the front of goal following a corner kick but Scotland finished the half on top and had a scoring opportunity denied them when a Colin Spence run was ended by a cynical Aaron Walsh tackle from behind that earned the game’s first yellow card.

Scotland held the upper hand on the resumption and deservedly doubled their advantage when a sweeping move saw Paul Burns send Keir Milliken through on goal and he unselfishly squared the ball for strike partner Wilson who was felled in the act of shooting but before whistler Andrew Lodge could blow for a penalty kick , McCann pounced on the loose ball to fire home an unstoppable shot.

The Scots continuing to look the more likely team to score again saw manager Burgess opt to rest some legs with substitutions however a setback occurred when that man Campbell wheeled on the 18 yard line to score with a low shot down at Leishman’s left hand post to halve his team’s deficit.

Shortly afterwards he again had the goal in his sights only to be thwarted by a last gasp Pettigrew blocking tackle however the busy front man was not to be denied and eight minutes from time he latched onto a break of the ball to cut across from the left and smash a low shot goalwards that found the net via Leishman’s upright .

At 2-2 Scotland retaliated with a flurry of attacking sorties but both Bryan Boylan and Nikky Docherty failed to hit target with scoring opportunities.

In the other Tournament game taking place, trophy holders Republic of Ireland ran out 3-2 winners over the Isle of Man at Somervell Park.

The Irish led 1-0 though Shane Clark but were pegged back before half time by Josh Thomson and their noses were again in front second half through an Owen Hayes score only for Shaun Doyle to level for the Manx men who could not get off the floor at the third time following a Stephen Donnelly goal for the Irish.

Scotland boss Burgess was in upbeat mood despite the manner of his team’s 2-2 draw and already looking forward to going up against the strong Republic of Ireland side .

He said: "There was a lot of nervous energy on show against Northern Ireland that clearly affected certain players and prevented them from producing their best.

“We should have been capable of defending a 2-0 lead and the fact we didn’t has left the guys feeling down but we will get our heads back in the right place for turning things around when facing the Republic.

“It’s a point on the board and might yet be the point that wins us this tournament if we can do the business in our remaining games.”

Midfielder Paul Burns is struggling to be fit for tonight’s New Western Park head to head after picking up a calf muscle injury while Burgess also has one or two players receiving treatment for knocks and bruises.

PLAYING TONIGHT: Umbro Quadrangular Tournament .Isle of Man v Northern Ireland (New Tinto Park 7pm) Scotland v Republic of Ireland (New Western Park 7pm)