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Harper seizes his chance and snaps up a hat trick.
7 Sep 1995
Scotland Under-21 5,
Finland Under-21 0
MAYBE you should read that scoreline again.
Five goals against a team that had gone six games without defeat is stirring enough, but in the process the lads not only virtually guaranteed their place in the European Championship quarter-finals but set a new record winning margin for any Scottish Under-21 team.
That seems a fair day's work for a side that had five changes from the one that had trimmed the Greeks last time out.
He might have scored a fourth if he had been able to nudge team-mate Jim Hamilton off the ball late on, but in true Scottish style the Dens Park man was having none of it and scored himself.
Tommy Craig, the man in charge of this squad which has now strung together six winning games in succession (and that must be another record), might have gone on talking all night had he not to leave Broadwood Stadium for Hampden.
"I just feel lucky to be in charge of a squad like this," he said.
This one puts the young Scots top of Group 8 with a superior goal difference to the Finns, and a draw in their last game against San Marino at Firhill next month would be enough to see them through to the last eight.
They will not pay much attention to thoughts of a draw against the weakest team in the section, however, and once they have disposed of them, the prospect of emulating the Under-21s of 1992, who reached the semi-finals of this competition, will beckon.
By the end of a fascinating 90 minutes in Cumbernauld the Finnish side, who had held high hopes of making it to the Olympic games through this tournament, were in complete disarray.
Much of the credit for that must go to the Scots' grit and old-fashioned ability to hang on in there, but maybe even more should go to Harper.
That goal was protected until half-time, after which the superbly fit home lads gradually overwhelmed the Finnish side, and once Harper had had added his second and third it was no contest.
"Definitely one of the best days I have had yet," said master Harper.
Even so, he was not prepared to rate his opening goal as his finest to date.
'That' was still worth seeing, as should be the ones that put it into the shade.
His second goal, 13 minutes after the break, was pretty decent, too.
The third was also down to a Fullarton pass, this time a flick over a defender to the striker, who calmly chipped it over the keeper.
Hamilton, who replaced Liddell in 62 minutes, made it four after he and Harper chased a through ball from McCann, and Locke smacked in the fifth when the referee allowed advantage after McNamara had been pulled down inside the box.
The hero of the day, Harper, was replaced by Steve Crawford four minutes from the end, perhaps to have him bathed and dried in good time to meet the media gang.
Tommy Craig is much too articulate to say it, but one or two of his predecessors might have used the phrase which sums up the day: The boy done good.
SCOTLAND -- Stillie (Aberdeen), Murray (Rangers), Fullarton (St Mirren), Locke (Hearts), Handyside (Grimsby), Dailly (Dundee United), McNamara (Dunfermline), Glass (Aberdeen), Liddell (Barnsley), Harper (Hibs), McCann (Dundee).
FINLAND -- Moilanen, Keula, Oinas, Heinola, Nuorela, Hyypia, Javaja, Karjalainen, Sumiala, Kottila, Vaisanen.
Referee -- R Philippi (Luxembourg).
Taken from the Herald