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Steve Clarke stresses Scotland’s work not done yet despite play-off place

Moldova v Scotland – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group F – Zimbru Stadium
(Image credit: Tim Goode)

Scotland manager Steve Clarke stressed their Group F work was not done after securing a World Cup play-off place with a 2-0 victory in Moldova.

Scotland made sure of second spot behind Denmark with a well-deserved win in Chisinau.

John McGinn laid the ball off for Nathan Patterson to net his first international goal in the 38th minute before the same pair combined to set up Che Adams in the 65th minute.

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Craig Gordon saved a late penalty following Patterson’s handball but Scotland were otherwise comfortable throughout the second half.

Scotland round off their campaign against the runaway group winners on Monday but the game could be significant in their quest for a home semi-final in March. The 10 group runners-up will join two teams who qualify from the Nations League with three teams ultimately qualifying for Qatar.

When asked to sum up their achievement, Clarke said: “Just a measure of a good group of players who work really hard, want to do well for their country, are desperate to get to another major tournament.

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“Back in March we were 10 or 12 games away from Qatar and now we are two games away from Qatar. We don’t get over-excited.

“It’s nice to be in the play-offs. We want to get through the play-offs and get to Qatar. That’s the ultimate aim. But the players have been fantastic in this campaign.”

Scotland secured a top-two finish thanks to a five-match winning run. Clarke is eager to keep that momentum going on Monday having qualified for the Euro 2020 finals with a similar five-match winning run.

“It was important when we went to the play-off game in Serbia,” he said. “I think Serbia away was our ninth game unbeaten.

“We are on a similar run and Monday night’s game becomes particularly important because, hopefully if we get one or three points out that game, it should secure a seeding for us, which wouldn’t make the play-off easy but would maybe give us a home game at Hampden for the first one, which would be nice.

“But whichever way it is, we will deal with the play-off games in March. We want to finish this campaign well so all focus is on Monday night.”

On the game in Chisinau, Clarke said: “Credit to the players. It was always going to be a difficult night. You know what it’s like coming away.

Nathan Patterson

Nathan Patterson scored his first international goal (Tim Goode/PA)

“We started the game really well, on the front foot, controlled it reasonably well but had to wait a long time to get the first goal. When it came, it was a good goal.

“His first (international) goal, a left-footed finish from a right-back. Being an ex-right-back myself, I know how difficult that is to do. He kept his composure well.

“To be honest, you could see in the first 15-20 minutes of the game that Nathan was a wee bit short of football. It took him a little bit of time to find his feet in the game. Once he found his feet, he did okay, didn’t he?”