Posts Tagged ‘Football’

Strachan’s Scots show early appeal to Tartan Army

February 8, 2013
Strachan: Fine start, but next month's qualifiers will be the time to start proper judgement. Photograph PA Wire/PA

Strachan: Fine start, but next month’s qualifiers will be the time to start proper judgement. Photograph PA Wire/PA

Gordon Strachan was the fans’ choice to take over from Craig Levein.

And he started his reign in the same way as his predecessor – with a 1-0 home friendly victory against European opposition.

Levein’s opening success against the Czech Republic in 2010 arguably set the tone for his period in charge – his side were impressive in friendlies but ultimately poor in competitive action.

Yet Strachan’s victory over Estonia at Pittodrie on Wednesday night left Scotland fans with a feeling that more was to come, and that they could have inflicted more damage on their opponents following Charlie Mulgrew’s opener at the end of the first-half.

Estonia were a team considered to be a subtle threat to hopes of a successful debut at the ground where he spent many prosperous years with Aberdeen as a player.

However there were limitations other than the opposition that prevented Scotland reaching full flow, as the conditions amounted to make offensive football a great difficulty. Notwithstanding the fact Pittodrie is among the coldest grounds in the country, the poor playing surface made it awkward for Strachan’s attack-minded team to flourish.

The Pittodrie pitch has struggled to recover since Scotland’s rugby side travelled to the north-east to host Tonga as part of their autumn test series. That perhaps explains Aberdeen’s recent slump in form, with the Dons having won just one of the six home games they have played since that match.

The pitch clearly had a detrimental impact on several factors most would consider important to the thinking behind Strachan’s line-up, such as Charlie Adam’s range of passing and Steven Fletcher’s link-up with the midfield. However, one player returning to the side was Chris Burke, whose wing-play in the first-half made the bumpy pitch look like an irrelevant element.

It was therefore ironic that despite the conditions doing so much to disrupt Scotland’s gameplan, the winning goal was perfect execution of a move seemingly straight from the training ground. Adam’s free-kick from wide on the left was driven low to the edge of the penalty spot, where it met the run of Mulgrew who had rapidly peeled inside from the far post before the Celtic man hit a first-time shot into the bottom corner.

As so often happens in friendlies, the plethora of second-half substitutions brought the game to a lull. But the intent with which Strachan showed in starting Shaun Maloney, Steven Naismith and Burke behind Fletcher was itself a statement likely to enthuse the Tartan Army.

Strachan’s track record has exposed him to many big-match situations before – English Premier League football with Coventry and Southampton and Champions League football with Celtic. One thing that has stayed common with his time in charge of each side has been the absence of any kind of intimidation at the prospect of facing bigger teams.

The signs are there that Strachan will set his team up offensively when necessary, something Levein was criticised for failing to do often enough. However, as brief an introduction as Wednesday’s clash was, the serious judgement will be held back a month until March’s World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Serbia have been concluded.