KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Veteran newcomer Rickie Lambert marked his England debut by heading the goal which brought a 3-2 win over Scotland at Wembley – with his first touch three minutes after substituting for Wayne Rooney.
Lambert may have thought he was dreaming after being called up at the weekend on the day his partner gave birth to a baby daughter.
England hardly deserved the victory, however, after conceding two sloppy goals to James Morrison in the first half and Kenny Miller early in the second. Their only excuse could have been that none of their team had played a Premier League match. Each time they hit back, first through Theo Walcott and then through Danny Welbeck.
Five goals ensured that the latest clash would not end as did the first meeting of all, a goalless draw back in in 1872.
The last meeting had been in a Euro 2000 qualifier which Scotland won 1-0 at Wembley in 1999. More memorable, for England at least, was the 4-1 victory at the finals of Euro 96 in which Paul Gascoigne scored his finest goal for his country.
But that was then, this was now.
Much of the England interest centred on Wayne Rooney starting the game after recovering from the shoulder injury which kept him away from Wembley when Manchester United beat Wigan to win the FA Community Shield on Sunday.
United manager David Moyes had welcomed the opportunity for Rooney to play, perhaps in the hope that the excitement of a return to action might encourage the player to think more about his football and less about his wish to head south to Chelsea.
Rooney played far up in the centre of attack for England and eagerly sought the ball in England’s early exploratory raids.
All came to naught before Scotland, instead, opened the scoring in their first attack. A right-wing cross was jabbed loose by Theo Walcott and Morrison seized possession, found no-one closing him down and drove in a fierce shot which keeper Joe Hart somehow allowed to slip into goal beneath his left arm.
The goal disrupted England’s confidence and pattern but they levelled in the 29th minute through Theo Walcott. The Arsenal winger escaped down the right, wrong-footed leftback Steven Whittaker and slid the ball inside keeper Allan McGregor’s left-hand post.
England were found wanting in defence again after four minutes of the second half when Miller was allowed all the time in the world by Gary Cahill to twist through 180deg and shoot low and true past the diving Hart’ right hand.
This time England needed only three minutes to equalise. Skipper Steven Gerrard flighted a long ball into the penalty box and Welbeck glance-headed the ball down into the Scottish net.
The stream of substitutes began midway through the second half with 31-year-old Rickie Lambert making his England debut as substitute for Rooney. Incredibly, within three minutes he had put England ahead with a bullet header of a first touch to a left-wing corner from James Milner.
Lambert might even have scored again but, in stoppage time, hit a post from close range with all the goal to aim at. Still,
England: Hart – Walker, Cahill, Jagielka (Jones 84), Baines – Cleverley (Milner 67), Gerrard (Oxlade-Chamberlain 61), Wilshere (Lampard 46) – Walcott (Zaha 75), Rooney (Lambert 67), Welbeck. Manager: Hodgson.
Scotland: McGregor – Hutton, Martin, Hanley, Whittaker – Brown, Morrison (Rhodes 82) – Forrest (Mulgrew 66), Maloney (Naismith 86), Snodgrass (Conway 66) – Miller (Griffiths 73). Manager: Strachan.
Referee: F Brych (Ger).