Belfast Telegraph

Scots pumped up for play-off scrap after last-gasp drama

Scotland 1 Slovakia 0

By Ronnie Esplin

Skipper Darren Fletcher is looking forward to a "massive" game in Slovenia on Sunday after Scotland put themselves in with a chance of a play-off spot with a last-gasp 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over 10-man Slovakia.

An own goal from Martin Skrtel was enough for the Scots, who had hit the woodwork through Leigh Griffiths and Chris Martin as well as spurned a host of other chances in an impressive display.

Their destiny is now in their own hands, and Fletcher said: "It's massive. This is only the first part of it. Everybody's delighted and excited and it's a great three points, but it's only half the job really. We've got to recover and go again with another really difficult game."

Fletcher admitted it was not easy against 10-man Slovakia, who had Robert Mak sent off for simulation in the 23rd minute.

"Everyone expects you to just bowl them over. You don't know whether to stick or twist. We wore them down - we kept passing the ball, we didn't get frustrated and it went right to the end again.

"We were so unlucky all game, but it doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there in the end."

Striker Chris Martin, who went in for the ball with Skrtel as the former Liverpool defender got the final touch to turn it past his own goalkeeper, said: "It's the way you want to win a game, really.

"I know it was probably a little bit nervy for people watching, but I thought we stayed composed throughout the game and got what we deserved in the end."

Manager Gordon Strachan always felt his side would win the game, even with time running out, and thanked the "footballing Gods" for eventually smiling on his team.

"I genuinely thought that we were going to score a goal. It would have been a huge disappointment if we hadn't," he said.

"That was some performance. I know there's 10 men there but that shook us for a bit.

"There's no doubt about it, the man of the match for them was the goalkeeper (Martin Dubravka), he was magnificent - and the crossbar was good as well!

"We had all these great performances and what you get is the footballing Gods deciding to give us a victory.

"I'm just going to enjoy this for about an hour-and-a-half and then I'll really think about tomorrow morning. I think that's the way we've looked at it - forget the Slovenia game until this is over.

"It says a lot about their fitness.

"You have got to have fitness to have the mental strength otherwise you have a weakness."

Scotland: Gordon, Berra, Mulgrew, Robertson, Tierney (Anya, 82 mins), Morrison, D Fletcher (McArthur, 79 mins),Bannan, Forrest (Martin, 60 mins), Griffiths, Phillips. Unused subs: A McGregor, McGinn, Snodgrass, S Fletcher, Hanley, Fraser, Cooper, C McGregor, Archer.

Slovakia: Dubravka, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan, Kucka (Gyomber, 80 mins), Gregus, Lobotka, Mak,Hamsik (Duda, 79 mins), Nemec (Weiss, 79 mins). Unused subs: Kozacik, Mihalik, Rusnak, Hrosovsky, Mazan, Sabo, Stetina, Polacek.

Man of the match: Andy Robertson

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia).

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