At last, it was the win­ner a na­tion was wait­ing for

A team picked on abil­ity, Stra­chan’s job saved and op­ti­mism in Ham­p­den. Re­sult

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SCOTLAND 1 SLOVENIA 0 - NEIL CAMERON

HE punter sit­ting in the posh seats right be­hind the me­dia rows must have walked away from Ham­p­den Park last night feel­ing won­der­fully sheep­ish. Chris Martin is no­body’s idea of a new Kenny Dal­glish but he didn’t de­serve the loud shout of “don’t do it” di­rected at Gor­don Stra­chan when he was about to make his last sub­sti­tu­tion of the night, putting on the big front-man for James Mor­ri­son. There were even some boos.

And then, all of a sud­den, Martin was free in­side the area. With two min­utes to go, a shat­tered but mag­nif­i­cent Stu­art Arm­strong ex­pended the last of his en­ergy to find his team-mate with a pass and the much-ma­ligned Ful­ham player, on loan from Derby, got his left-foot shot just right.

Scot­land have a chance now thanks to a per­for­mance we have been wait­ing for.

If only Gor­don Stra­chan both ear­lier in this World Cup cam­paign and in the pre­vi­ous at­tempt at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship had looked at his squad and said to him­self, “You know what, I’m go­ing to pick the team on abil­ity and form”.

It worked last night, it saved Stra­chan’s job and the na­tional team have some­thing to go for. It’s Eng­land next. The game takes place in June, when most of their play­ers will be emo­tion­ally on the beach af­ter a long sea­son.

This is what hap­pens when you play the best play­ers avail­able. Kieran Tier­ney at right-back is a mil­lion times bet­ter than one of the bright­est tal­ents in Bri­tish foot­ball not play­ing at all. He and Andy Robert­son have to start, even if some tin­ker­ing is re­quired.

We are not close to be­ing good enough to leave ei­ther of them out.

Leigh Grif­fiths ran the Slove­nian de­fence ragged, hit the wood­work a cou­ple of times and linked up well with his mid­field un­til in­jury forced him off.

And this was the Celtic man from a dis­rupted sea­son rather than the player of the year of 12 months ago who was un­drop­pable for his club yet seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble to pick for his coun­try.

Char­lie Mul­grew is our best centrehalf, James Mor­ri­son has never let us down and, when Grif­fiths went off, Stra­chan went with Steven Nai­smith, again the right choice. And for one night we looked an in­ter­na­tional team.

Be­ing fourth in a Cham­pi­ons League group is a hell of a lot bet­ter than be­ing a mid-ta­ble English Cham­pi­onship side. Let’s hope lessons have been learned. There may have been lots of empty seats in­side Ham­p­den Park but those who came along could say their team gave its all.

Within a minute, a punt from Craig Gor­don forced a cor­ner, taken by Robert Sn­od­grass, which would have led to a goal had Jan Oblak not made a smart save to deny Rus­sell Martin.

The crowd may have been on the small size but now they could be heard.

Scot­land kept at­tack­ing, mov­ing the ball to feet with a pace, pre­ci­sion and con­fi­dence that had been lack­ing in pre­vi­ous games, to the ex­tent Stra­chan thought his team had taken the lead when Martin’s su­perb header beat Oblak, only for Dutch ref­eree Bjorn Kuipers to, cor­rectly, dis­al­low it for a foul. What was this col­lec­tive feel­ing go­ing around Mount Florida? It was en­cour­age­ment dipped in op­ti­mism. Heady times. That’s not to say Slove­nia did not at least hint that they could cause prob­lems; how­ever, Scot­land were the bet­ter side for large parts of the first-half. Pos­ses­sion was clearly king and no chances were taken when the back four were pressed, those wear­ing blue happy to pass the ball back. This brought frus­trated jeers from the home sup­port­ers. Do you think the

LUCKY 13: Chris Martin’s Scot­land team-mates show ex­actly what they think of him af­ter net­ting the last-gasp win­ner

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.