Profligate Scotland revive World Cup hopes with win over Moldova as Rangers' Nathan Patterson shows why he's here to stay

It was far more fretful than it needed to be against opponents ranked 175th in the world, but Scotland secured the victory which was non-negotiable for Steve Clarke to retain credible hope of progress from Group F on the road to Qatar.

Lyndon Dykes celebrates after scoring Scotland's goal in the 1-0 win over Moldova at Hampden. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Lyndon Dykes celebrates after scoring Scotland's goal in the 1-0 win over Moldova at Hampden. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Lyndon Dykes’ third goal for his country proved sufficient to overcome a limited Moldovan side but Scotland manager Clarke and a crowd of 40,869 inside Hampden were made to suffer before they could celebrate the collection of three crucial points.

The wastefulness in front of goal by Scotland was a concern as they failed to build upon Dykes’ early opener but the performance was secondary to the result on a night when bouncing back from last Wednesday’s painful defeat in Denmark was the objective.

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There were plus points for Clarke to take from the contest in the shape of another highly accomplished display from Billy Gilmour which saw the 20-year-old midfielder given a standing ovation from the Tartan Army when he was replaced in the closing stages.

Billy Gilmour received a standing ovation from the Scotland fans for his performance against Moldova. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

If Gilmour should be a permanent fixture in the Scotland side for years to come, the same can safely be said of Nathan Patterson. The 19-year-old Rangers full-back was excellent as he returned from self-isolation.

Scotland have climbed up to third in Group F, two points behind Israel in the battle for second place and a point ahead of the Austrian side they now face in a hugely pivotal fixture in Vienna on Tuesday.

With the narrative surrounding his squad having been drained of positivity by the manner of defeat in Copenhagen, a bright start against one of the group’s makeweights was crucial for Clarke as he looked to alter the mood.

The enterprising nature of his team selection had the desired effect of ensuring Scotland were on the front foot from the opening exchanges.

Nathan Patterson celebrates after his part in Scotland's goal against Moldova at Hampden. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

With Patterson making his first starting appearance for his country at right wing-back, captain Andy Robertson marked his 50th cap with a return to his natural environment on the left following his uncomfortable experience against the Danes.

The better balance of the Scotland team was immediately evident as both players looked to join the attack at every opportunity.

Patterson surged forward to get on the end of a John McGinn pass and fire Scotland’s first attempt at goal wide, before Robertson was unfortunate not to make more of the next opening after playing a smart exchange of passes with Kevin Nisbet.

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A loose pass from Patterson, intended for Jack Hendry, presented Moldova with their first sight of goal which striker Mihail Ghecev horribly miscued.

Patterson didn’t take long to redeem himself, playing a crucial role in Scotland’s 14th minute breakthrough. He seized upon a slack ball out of defence from Moldovan captain Igor Amas before charging through the inside right channel and flicking the ball wide to Nisbet.

Receiving the immediate return pass, Patterson drove in a low shot which Moldovan goalkeeper Cristian Avram got down to his right to save but not hold. It left Dykes with a simple close range tap-in to give Scotland the ideal start.

Frustratingly for Clarke, it was one they were unable to capitalise upon in the remainder of a largely dominant first half which saw them miss several good opportunities.

Nisbet failed to react quickly enough just inside the box upon receipt of a fine pass from Dykes, allowing Oleg Reabciuk to make a crucial interception for the visitors.

Kieran Tierney, unmarked as he was picked out by a Gilmour corner, didn’t connect cleanly enough with his header which bounced up off the turf and was touched over by Avram. Robertson then blazed over from around 10 yards after his overlapping run got him on the end of Ryan Christie’s pass.

While Moldova had generally struggled to progress beyond the halfway line, there were a couple of warning shots for the Scots just before the break which underlined the fragility of their advantage.

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Ghecev cut inside from the right and drove a shot narrowly wide of Craig Gordon’s left hand post, then Maxim Potirniche’s header from a corner was deflected just off target by Jack Hendry.

Scotland’s profligacy continued early in the second half as McGinn lacked composure with a shot which Vadim Bolohan was able to block, then Grant Hanley headed over from close range after another precisely delivered Gilmour corner.

Gilmour should have adorned his fine performance with a goal just after the hour mark but perhaps tried to be just too precise rather than instinctive with a shot narrowly wide of Avram’s left hand post following a delightful one-two with Nisbet which carved open the Moldovan defence.

Nisbet wasn’t at his sharpest for much of the evening on what was his first start for Scotland the Hibs striker cut a dejected figure when he was unsurprisingly replaced by Che Adams for the closing stages.

Adams saw a shot deflected just wide as the insurance of a second goal continued to prove elusive, leaving a degree of anxiety hanging in the Mount Florida air amid the occasional threatening moment on the break from Moldova.

Christie blazed a great chance over with three minutes of regulation time remaining, ensuring a needlessly but typically Scottish nervy finale.

Scotland (3-4-1-2): Gordon, Hendry, Hanley, Tierney; Patterson, Gilmour (McLean 73), Christie, Robertson (Cooper 73); McGinn (McGregor 65); Dykes (Turnbull 84), Nisbet (Adams 65). Subs not used: Kelly, Clark, O’Donnell, McKenna, Gallagher, Ferguson, Fraser.

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Moldova (3-5-2): Avram, Potirniche, Bolohan, Armas; I.Jardan, Rata, Ginsari (Spataru 87), Ionita (Clescenco 90+4), Reabciuk; Platica, Ghecev (Dros 46). Subs not used: Namasco, Agachi, Dumbravanu, Bogaciuc, Marandici, Antoniuc, Belousov, Milinceanu, Revenco.

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