All eleven Scottish players were selected from Queen’s Park, the leading Scottish club at this time. Scotland had hoped to obtain the services of Arthur Kinnaird of The Wanderers and Henry Renny-Tailyour of Royal Engineers but both were unavailable. The teams for this match were got together “with some difficulty, each side losing some of their best men almost at the last moment” The Scottish side was selected by goalkeeper and captain Robert Gardner. The English side was selected from nine different clubs and was selected by Charles Alcock, who himself was unable to play due to injury.The match, initially scheduled for 2pm, was delayed for 20 minutes. The 4,000 spectators paid an entry fee of a shilling, the same amount charged at the 1872 FA Cup Final.
The Scots wore dark blue shirts. This match is, however, not the origin of the blue Scotland shirt, as contemporary reports of the 5 February 1872 rugby international at the Oval clearly show that “the Scotch were easily distinguishable by their uniform of blue jerseys…. the jerseys having the thistle embroidered.” The thistle had been worn previously in the 1871 rugby international. The English wore white shirts. The English wore caps, while the Scots wore red cowls.
The match itself illustrated the advantage gained by the Queen’s Park players “through knowing each others’ play ” as all came from the same club. Contemporary match reports clearly show dribbling play by both the English and the Scottish sides, for example: “The Scotch now came away with a great rush, Leckie and others dribbling the ball so smartly that the English lines were closely besieged and the ball was soon behind”, “Weir now had a splendid run for Scotland into the heart of his opponents’ territory ” and “Kerr.. closed the match by the most brilliant run of the day, dribbling the ball past the whole field.” Although the Scottish team are acknowledged to have worked better together during the first half, the contemporary account in the Scotsman newspaper acknowledges that in the second half England played similarly: “During the first half of the game the English team did not work so well together, but in the second half they left nothing to be desired in this respect. ” There is no specific description of a passing manoeuvre in the lengthy contemporary match reports, although two weeks’ later The Graphic reported “[Scotland] seem to be adepts at passing the ball”. There is no evidence in the article that the author attended the match, as the reader is clearly pointed to match descriptions in “sporting journals”. It is also of note that the 5 March 1872 match between Wanderers and Queen’s Park contains no evidence of ball passing.
On a pitch that was heavy due to the continuous rain over the previous three days, the smaller and lighter Scottish side pushed their English counterparts hard. The Scots had a goal disallowed in the first half after the umpires decided that the ball had cleared the tape. The latter part of the match saw the Scots defence under pressure by the heavier English forwards. The Scots played two full backs, two half backs and six forwards. The English played only one full back, one half back and eight forwards. Since three defenders were required for a ball played to be onside, the English system was virtually a ready-made offside trap. Scotland would come closest to winning the match when, in the closing stages, a Robert Leckie shot landed on top of the tape which was used to represent the crossbar. At some point in the game, the England goalkeeper, Robert Barker, decided to join the action outfield when he switched places with William Maynard.