Steve Clarke facing Scotland dilemma with EIGHT players walking World Cup play-off suspension tightrope

Steve Clarke admits he has been presented with a significant dilemma after Scotland secured a World Cup play-off spot with a 2-0 win over Moldova.

The manager saluted the professionalism of his players after goals from Nathan Patterson and Che Adams brought up a fifth successive competitive win. Clarke urged his side to now finish the group on a high by gaining a result against Denmark that would secure seeding status in the play-off semi-final in March.

Scotland’s hopes of negotiating the play-offs could potentially be hit by a suspension crisis. Clarke must already cope without the irrepressible Patterson against Denmark.

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On an eventful night for the Rangers wingback in Moldova, he set up Adams' goal, conceded a late penalty and was also earlier booked. He is now banned for Monday's game.

Scotland's Liam Cooper (left) and Billy Gilmour celebrate after the 2-0 win over Moldova clinched a World Cup play-off place. (Tim Goode/PA Wire)

Stephen O’Donnell, his likely replacement, has already picked up one booking in the campaign and is one away from a suspension, as are seven others.

Clarke faces a decision about whether to risk losing several players for the first play-off game by fielding them against the group winners. Andy Robertson, John McGinn, Scott McTominay, Billy Gilmour, Che Adams, Jack Hendry and Kevin Nisbet join O’Donnell in sitting a booking away from a suspension.

Clarke has spoken before about the harsh nature of the suspension system in a ten-game qualifying campaign. Moreover, bookings are not wiped ahead of the play-offs. It is understood Uefa’s member associations are lobbying to have this rule changed. But as it stands, the threat of suspension of key players means Clarke must think carefully before selecting his side to face the high-flying Danes. The manager even admitted that he and his coaches discussed the possibility of picking up intentional bookings in Chisinau to get some suspensions out of the way on Monday. However, with much still riding on the sold-out Hampden fixture they decided against such a conniving tactic.

“It’s just one of those things,” said Clarke. “It’s part and parcel the process of getting there. I thought long and hard about it because we spoke about the possibility of getting some players booked then missing the game against Denmark on Monday.

"We probably need to get something from the game to try and get that seeding so it is a really important game for us.

“We also want to keep the momentum going. It’s difficult to win five matches in a row at any level. We have done it at international level, which is particularly hard. We want to make sure we put on a good show on Monday night and get something from that game as well to make sure we go into March in a really good frame of mind.”

The celebrations were notably restrained from the players at full-time against Moldova as focus switched to the visit of the Danes, who swept Scotland aside in Copenhagen in September.

“It’s important for us,” said Clarke. “We can hopefully secure a seeding for the play-offs, which would be nice.

“It won’t be a disaster if we don’t get it because we are still going to have to deal with two difficult matches whether you are seeded or not. And we want to finish the campaign on a high. It’s been a good campaign for us but we want to finish on a high in front of a full house at Hampden against a very, very good Denmark team.”

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