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Page last updated at 20:14 GMT, Saturday, 5 September 2009 21:14 UK

Scots World Cup dream still alive

McFadden sealed the win with a fantastic solo effort

By David McDaid
BBC Scotland at Hampden Park

Today is a day to forget about George Burley.

These were the words of the Scotland manager himself in his programme notes before the crucial World Cup qualifier against Macedonia.

Given Scotland's precarious position in Group 9 you would be forgiven for regarding this as a prophetic statement.

Anything but a win on a dreary day at Hampden and the knives would be out for Burley.

Despite an inspirational support, who festooned the national stadium with St Andrews flags, an uninspiring performance on the pitch in the opening 45 only served to add to the gloomy conditions nature had provided.

Scotland were to deploy an attacking 4-3-3 formation. But once the threat of the slick Macedonians, and in particular their star man Goran Pandev of Lazio, became apparent the tactics had to be rethought.

The raucous din from the home fans during the early exchanges petered out before rising again as frustration as no player in the home side was able to make the Macedonian goalkeeper do any work.

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Only Scott Brown, with two shots past the post and his general fiery demeanour, gave the Tartan Army a reason to shout as he ruffled feathers amongst the visitors.

As both sets of players jostled their way up the tunnel at the break, 'Saltire Saturday' looked like it could become 'Salty Tear Saturday' as that play-off spot disappeared behind the blanket cloud overhead.

Perhaps sensing the unrest in the Hamden stands, the stadium PA announcer roared: "This is a massive half of football for this country!" as the players retook the field.

He was not wrong.

Whether down to that clarion call, or a dressing room dressing-down by the boss, within 10 minutes of kick-off Scotland fans were given cause for optimism as James McFadden and Kenny Miller found openings in the Macedonia defence hitherto unexplored.

The optimism was balanced by despair as these apparently simple chances were passed up.

But, the point was, at least they were now making inroads.

And then, when the goals came, they came out of the blue.

Brown somehow managed to glance what looked like a poor Steven Fletcher cross behind him and inside the far post.

What a time to score your first goal for your country. The lid had been lifted off the Hampden pressure cooker.

Then, after McFadden beat the entire Macedonia team before rounding the keeper and rolling the ball into the net, the fans had Scotland 'Comin' Down the Road' to South Africa 2010.

Scotland manager George Burley
Burley has eased some of the pressure on him

OK, so the Birmingham man nutmegged one player as he embarked upon a 40-yard run to take the ball round the goalkeeper, but I defy anyone to set the record straight in the pubs around Glasgow this weekend.

Upon the final whistle many emotions enveloped Hampden.

Burley punched the air as he recorded win number three from 11 games. The Scotland fans rejoiced that the dream is still on.

McFadden, who was booked and now misses the Netherlands match, demonstrated that he had come down with the 'Four-letter-word Flu' that his manager had suffered from in his Friday news conference.

Speaking to Chick Young live on BBC Radio Scotland, he forgot himself as his ire bubbled over at the referee's decision to produce the card following one of several melees in the first period.

Other players giving post-match interviews appeared subdued, while Burley cut a stoic figure as he answered journalists' questions.

Perhaps it's because they know they have only won the first part of a still-unlikely double.

Today, Macedonia; Wednesday, the Netherlands.

The Macedonia coach Mirsad Jonaz said that Scotland "will have to be lucky twice," if they are to get that all-important win against the Dutch.

Jonaz was probably smarting after watching his men waste a number of good chances which could have changed the complexion of Saturday's game.

But Craig Gordon must be given credit there, and there was nothing lucky about Scotland's goals.

Nevertheless, Scotland will need the help of Lady Luck when the likes of Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben et al come calling.

But let's forget about them today.

Today is a day for reminding ourselves how to celebrate a Scotland victory.



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see also
Burley delight at team effort
05 Sep 09 |  Scotland
McFadden elated but sad to miss Dutch
05 Sep 09 |  Scotland
Rewards came in second-half - Gordon
05 Sep 09 |  Scotland
Burley praises players and fans
05 Sep 09 |  Internationals
Scotland 2-0 Macedonia
05 Sep 09 |  Internationals
Scotland v Macedonia in pictures
05 Sep 09 |  Scotland
International football as it happened
05 Sep 09 |  Football


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