Belfast Telegraph

Clinical Naismith strikes to keep Scots in the hunt for play-off spot

Scotland 1 Lithuania 0: Steven Naismith threw Scotland a Euro 2012 lifeline by firing them to a crucial win over Lithuania in last night's qualifier at Hampden Park.

Naismith claimed the only goal of the game early in the second half after skipper Darren Fletcher was denied from the penalty spot just before the break.

The Scots held on for the victory which sees them now sit two points behind the Czech Republic with two games to go as both nations battle for a play-off spot.

As well as the disappointment of being held to a 2-2 draw by the Czechs on Saturday, Craig Levein also had selection problems to contend with ahead of this match.

Kenny Miller and Scott Brown were both suspended, while Barry Robson and Charlie Adam missed out through injury.

That meant first competitive starts for David Goodwillie, Barry Bannan and Don Cowie, with Steven Whittaker returning from a ban to take his place in the starting line-up.

The Scots carved out the first real chance when Bannan's corner was nodded across goal by Phil Bardsley and fell for Christophe Berra at the back post only for the defender to rifle high and wide from close range.

Scotland looked more likely to open the scoring than their visitors and Fletcher tested Zydrunas Karcemarskas with a stinging shot at his near post.

Scotland should have opened the scoring a minute before half-time when Tadas Labukas handled Bannan's free-kick in the box

and referee Kristinn Jakobsson pointed to the spot before brandishing a yellow card.

Manchester United star Fletcher stepped up for the spot-kick but Karcemarskas dived to his left to block and prevent the home side from heading into the interval with the advantage.

However, Scotland made amends when they opened the scoring just four minutes after the restart.

Bannan crossed from the right for Naismith who connected with a half-volley which went in off the post.

The referee could have awarded another penalty when Deividas Cesnauskis appeared to handle a Goodwillie cross before Rangers star Naismith had the chance to connect with the header.

Scotland held on for the win ahead of next month's double-header against Liechtenstein and Spain, which will determine their fate in Group I.

Belfast Telegraph

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