Scotland's late Group F goal music to Tartan Army's ears

It caused a stir when played across the loamy fields of Perthshire at T in the Park during the summer. But Hampden Park in deepest, darkest Glasgow on a Saturday night was where Scotland fans most yearned to hear Bits N Pieces, even if it was the rather more low-rent version by DJ George Bowie.

Lithuania almost spoiled the party with the opener but the Tartan Army could at least celebrate an equaliser. Picture: PA

The re-worked Artemesia hit from the tail-end of the last millennium had been selected by fans as the song they wanted to hear after a Scotland goal, above the Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be ( 500 Miles) and the Fratellis’ Chelsea Dagger.

Unfathomably, the option “no music at all” was rejected. A good old Hampden roar should of course suffice. But these are different, bleaker times. We must have pounding music to mark moments of joy. At least that’s the idea.

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But the whole ridiculous wheeze was proved redundant because of a minor detail that should, perhaps, have been anticipated as soon as anyone started discussing what to play to celebrate a Scotland goal.

Scotland didn’t score. Or at least they didn’t until the 89th minute, when substitute James McArthur flicked a header past Lithuanian goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus to provide some hope. But does it really matter? Does it change anything?

It certainly wasn’t what those behind the campaign to choose Scotland’s new “goal music” envisaged.

To be fair to the Hampden DJ, he manfully stuck the record on anyway. But no-one was listening. There was certainly little appetite for a celebration routine from the players in time to the pounding anthem. It was simply a case of getting back to their own half as quickly as possible in an attempt to make the most of the five minutes of time added on that was signalled shortly afterwards.

It’s surprising Strachan didn’t veto the whole ridiculous “goal music” debate in any case if his much re-Tweeted response to a BBC Scotland reporter on Friday is any guide to his feelings on the public having a say.

In the slightly concerning absence of a first-half goal, the Scotland fans were forced to make their own sweet music. That meant Doe a Deer got an airing, an anthem that, worryingly, has become associated with failure.

Scotland struggling? Let’s dust down an old Sound of Music ditty.

Arvydas Novikovas left Oliver Burke standing, a Hearts misfit wrong-footing a multi-million pound Bundesliga star. It wasn’t what the Tartan Army had come to see. Not a Saturday night when they could and should have been partying. A throaty swell of displeasure filled the arena.

“Get intae thum!”

Scotland were taking their time to gel which must have been a frustration for Strachan, whose selection of the same team that started against Malta was presumably done in the hope they might benefit from such continuity.

But save for occasional bright spots in a gruelling first half for the faithful, they toiled. Burke might have earned a penalty when pushed in the back by Edvinas Girdvainis while Chris Martin saw an angled volley go wide. But for the most part it was ponderous stuff. Too ponderous for the Tartan Army, with grumbles beginning to be heard. But the fans were admirably restrained at half-time as Scotland trekked off, having underlined just how difficult it can be to break down teams intent on defence.

No-one should have been surprised. Strachan and various coaches and players had spent much of last week spelling out this likelihood. It’s just that on a Saturday night, with time so tight between the final whistle and last orders, patience is in short supply.

Scotland needed something special to sustain the goodwill of the fans, and that wasn’t the Tannoy man’s attempt to trigger a mass sing-along to Loch Lomond at half-time.

Neither was the news Darren Fletcher’s 75th Scotland appearance had been brought to a premature end by a knock likely to brighten their outlook. McArthur replaced the skipper, linking up with Barry Bannan in midfield. But it was how to get Burke more involved that seemed to be the key to Scotland’s success. Or at least it was until he was replaced 11 minutes into the half. If that was deflating, it was nothing compared to the impact of Lithuania’s goal from Fiodor Cernych. Well-worked strike though it was, the goal was a complete mood dampener. With it barely having started, the Scotland fans contemplated a campaign being supplied with a fatal blow. So loud was the cheer greeting Leigh Griffiths’ introduction with 20 minutes to go it could have been confused with the reaction to a goal.

The DJ might briefly have contemplated sticking on Bits N Pieces. But it’s a lot to expect one man to change the course of history and such seasoned failure. The striker should have scored with a header from a Snodgrass cross. Strachan was conspicuous on the touchline by this point.

Admirably in the circumstances, he didn’t want to be accused of hiding. But the worrying situation was becoming critical as the realisation sank in that Scotland now needed two goals to re-ignite a campaign that had started brightly on a patch of sun-baked ground in Malta. McArthur’s late header might well not be enough.

Russia never seemed so far away.