A superb midfield display by Scott Allan was not enough to inspire Scotland to victory in their opening UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifier as they were held to a goalless draw by Bulgaria.
The Dundee United player produced some superb pieces of skill to create several chances in an otherwise tight first half at St Mirren Park. Allan shot just wide from long range and set up Jordan Rhodes inside the box but the Huddersfield striker could not beat the Bulgarian goalkeeper.
Scotland struggled to create chances after the break with Grant Adam the busier keeper, and the visitors held out as Billy Stark's men pushed forward in the final quarter. Stark led his team to the play-offs for the previous tournament, where they lost to a strong Iceland side, but has since lost the likes of full internationals David Goodwillie and Chris Maguire.
Stark sprang a surprise in his team selection with Rangers midfielder Gregg Wylde sidelined as Dundee United's Stuart Armstrong was preferred on the left side of midfield after his goalscoring contribution off the bench in last month's 3-0 win over Norway.
Allan gave the game an initial spark with some neat skill to ease himself beyond the Bulgaria midfield before drilling the ball just wide of the top corner from 22 yards. The midfielder then found United team-mate Johnny Russell with a curling ball to the far post but the forward had to stretch and he scooped his effort just beyond the post.
Allan created the best chance of the half with five minutes left, making space with another superb piece of skill and threading the ball through for Rhodes, but the striker failed to get hold of his shot and Plamen Iliev parried.
Adam had little to do in the first half other than to watch some long-range efforts flash wide but he had an uncomfortable moment just after the restart when he fumbled Alexander Tonev's low cross at his near post, but the danger was soon cleared.
The Rangers keeper soon made two good saves, blocking Stanislav Kostov's drive before getting down well to hold Georgi Milanov's 25-yard strike. Scotland had moved from a 4-5-1 to two up front with Russell joining Rhodes and Allan edged out towards the left.
But they were struggling to create chances and Stark brought on Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Liam Palmer and Hibernian's on-loan Wolves striker Leigh Griffiths. Adam saved a weak effort from Momchil Tsvetanov after his throw out put his team in trouble before holding a powerful free-kick from the substitute.
Russell slipped after a clever pass into the box from Allan and then benefited from a slip in the visiting defence to run in on goal from the right, but Iliev got down to parry his driven shot. Pawlett's backward header was held in their only late chance.
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