The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Bit of a mixed bag for Gor­don who is left kick­ing him­self

- By Graeme Croser AT HAM­P­DEN PARK

BRENDAN RODGERS has sub­jected Craig Gor­don to plenty of prac­tice with the ball at his feet this sea­son.

All of those train­ing-ground hours were needed yes­ter­day as Scot­land re­peat­edly found them­selves pinned back and look­ing for their goal­keeper to pro­vide an out ball.

Chal­lenged by his man­ager to im­prove, the Celtic No 1 has be­come pro­fi­cient at re­cy­cling pos­ses­sion but made a rare er­ror at the mo­ment which opened up an un­tidy yet re­mark­able World Cup qual­i­fier and pro­pelled it to­wards the most dra­matic of con­clu­sions.

A bad bounce forced Kieran Tier­ney to stretch and de­liver a heavy back­pass to­wards his club-mate as Harry Kane bore down. Pan­icked, the 34-year-old hit the ball out for a throw-in.

As Gor­don said, there was plenty scope for re­or­gan­i­sa­tion as Eng­land sub­sti­tute Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain wove in­side from the throw, even­tu­ally pro­duc­ing a shot that the keeper could only parry into the net.

How­ever, there was at least a share of the blame to be taken af­ter­wards.

‘It wasn’t the ti­di­est of back­passes and I had to chase it,’ he ad­mit­ted. ‘But it went out for a throw and we had plenty time to or­gan­ise from there — it didn’t ex­actly come from that.

‘The shot came through a lot of bod­ies, ev­ery­one tried to get in the way of it.

‘It might even have taken a slight de­flec­tion but it was a very late re­ac­tion to get my hand up. I didn’t see it un­til very late and some­times that’s what hap­pens when peo­ple are try­ing to get their bod­ies in.’

If the loss of the first goal in the 70th minute was frus­trat­ing to Scot­land, it was noth­ing com­pared to the feel­ing of an­guish that met Harry Kane’s stop­page-time equaliser.

Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the delir­ium of watch­ing two fan­tas­tic Leigh Grif­fiths free­kicks beat Joe Hart in ei­ther cor­ner, Gor­don ad­mit­ted the sight of the ball drop­ping out of the air and into the Spurs striker’s path was dispir­it­ing in the ex­treme. ‘It was dis­ap­point­ing to al­low that to hap­pen so late on,’ he said. ‘Maybe there was a lit­tle bit of tired­ness creep­ing in and we haven’t been able to hang on.

‘We should have held on to the ball a bit bet­ter on the counter and try to run it into the cor­ner.

‘They got the ball back and we were dis­or­gan­ised. We didn’t get out as well as we should have and left a space at the back post.

‘I thought Kane was go­ing to head it but he volleyed it.’

There may have been ques­tion marks over the keeper’s fail­ure to claim Ra­heem Ster­ling’s cross, but Gor­don could point to his own per­sonal con­tri­bu­tion to­wards keep­ing Scot­land in the game un­til that point.

An im­pro­vised first-half save which saw him deny Mar­cus Rash­ford with his feet was good, as were the strong hands he ap­plied to a Jake Liver­more dive. Ar­guably best of all was the stop he made to turn Eric Dier’s free-kick over the bar af­ter Grif­fiths had made it 2-1.

‘I thought we were go­ing to win it but it’s still a point,’ he sur­mised. ‘We wanted to take some­thing from the game and we have man­aged to do that.

‘The cir­cum­stances of it don’t feel as good but it’s a draw. It was an un­tidy game and that prob­a­bly suited us.

‘They couldn’t get into any rhythm and we did that side of it well. We re­stricted them.

‘Leigh has pro­duced two un­be­liev­able hits from free­kicks and gave us some­thing to hold on to but it wasn’t to be.’

Gor­don has ex­pe­ri­enced ela­tion with Scot­land be­fore only to ul­ti­mately be de­nied the prize of qual­i­fi­ca­tion. The two vic­to­ries over France in the Euro 2008 qual­i­fiers stand out but were ul­ti­mately in­suf­fi­cient.

This time, he be­lieves there is a gen­uine prospect of at least mak­ing the play-offs.

‘It’s too early to say but it could end up be­ing a great point for us,’ he added. ‘Maybe we can win the re­main­ing games to get the play-off spot.’

 ??  ?? NEW BAWL GAME: Craig Gor­don shouts out his in­struc­tions yes­ter­day
NEW BAWL GAME: Craig Gor­don shouts out his in­struc­tions yes­ter­day

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