Scotland only know the hard way as they keep World Cup dream alive

Spirited Scotland only know the hard way… Steve Clarke’s side must be commended for keeping their World Cup dream alive but they DO have the quality to make life a lot easier

  • Scotland secured a last-gasp win against Israel during a Hampden Park thriller
  • Steve Clarke’s side had to dig deep to win all three points on Saturday night
  • Yet the Scots have good enough players to avoid making hard work of games
  • They do deserve all the credit for keeping their World Cup dream alive

Scotland have good enough players that they should not have to depend on their innate reserves of spirit and endurance.

But perhaps getting to the point whereby class renders courage a safety net is part of the journey they are on under Steve Clarke.

In short, they are still making hard work of matches in which they have the quality to make life a whole lot easier.

Scotland moved a step closer to World Cup qualification with a dramatic win over Israel

That is not a criticism; it is just where they are at right now. How can you knock a team who twice came from behind to win in the 94th minute? You can’t.

They deserve all the plaudits they will get in keeping their World Cup dream alive thanks to this thrilling victory at a rocking Hampden Park.

But in time Clarke will be hoping that nights such as this are slightly less complicated and chaotic — it also included a missed Lyndon Dykes penalty and a pitiful first-half display in which they conceded twice from set-pieces.

For when they have Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Billy Gilmour, John McGinn — and not forgetting stoppage-time hero Scott McTominay — there is reason to believe that major tournaments are where this team should be.

Gilmour was wonderful after half-time, a 20-year-old taking hold of his country’s destiny and leading the fightback to keep them on course for a play-off berth.

Scott McTominay struck in the 94th minute to secure victory amid rapturous scenes 

Steve Clarke’s side must be commended for keeping their World Cup dream in tact 

Dykes levelled on 55 minutes and, while Scotland should have won it long before McTominay’s close-range bundle over the line at the death, it says much that they refused to accept a draw that would still have ranked as a decent result.

But a win simplifies their task — beat the Faroe Islands tomorrow and Moldova next month and they will be two play-off games away from Qatar 2022.

Line Of Duty actor Martin Compston was sitting behind the press box here at Hampden. Not that AC-12 would find anything dishonest about the boys in blue on the pitch.

McGinn, scorer of their first equaliser with a deft, curled shot on the half-hour, later summed up that togetherness.

‘It’s a club feel,’ said the Aston Villa midfielder. ‘It doesn’t come overnight. We’re all mates.

‘It can sometimes be very easy to get on everyone’s back. I was making mistakes, others were making mistakes, and previously there might have been a bit of negativity and a wee bit of arguing, but we’ve all got belief in ourselves.

However, the Scots have plenty of quality to make life easier for themselves this campaign 

‘To add to that, it’s not a team that’s going away. Billy (Gilmour) and Nathan (Patterson) will play for the next 10 years. It’s just a great dressing room to be in. It’s sad we only meet up once or twice every few months, really.

‘It’s definitely a big reason for the results we are getting. We’re just hungry players who are hungry to succeed for our country. You dream of going to a World Cup, and every single player in there wants to do that.’

While Sir Alex Ferguson was on the pitch at half-time receiving an international cap, Clarke was yards away giving his players the hairdryer treatment.

McGinn revealed: ‘They are always strong words from the gaffer, even if you’re getting praise! But he was measured with what he was saying.

Scotland will need to make their ability count when they take on the lowly Faroes this week

‘He stressed we had to be braver. He told us we had to show our personality on the pitch, and we did that.’

Tuesday against the lowly Faroes, though, Scotland will need to make their ability count — they do not want a repeat of any late drama. Is there a danger that, when the adrenaline of this night wears off, Scotland’s performance could also drop?

‘None whatsoever,’ added Clarke. ‘We’ve already spoken in the dressing room about it. It’s a good night, it’s a good second half, it’s three points. It’s just one more step on the road to Qatar. And that’s what we’ll focus on.’

In truth, it does not matter how they get there. Hard or easy, supporters and players will not care. For now, at least they are heading in the right direction.

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