Shaun Maloney hails Scotland’s confidence surge

Shaun Maloney: 'Pressure has eased'. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Shaun Maloney: 'Pressure has eased'. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SCOTLAND midfielder Shaun Maloney feels their dominant performance against Georgia was further evidence of how much more comfortable they are in possession under Gordon Strachan.

Scotland needed an own goal to claim a 1-0 win in their opening home European Championship qualifier but the scoreline did not reflect their superiority, particularly in the first half when they forced a number of corners and pressed the visitors back.

Although Georgia improved after the break, Scotland created far more opportunities and would have been more comfortable had they been more clinical in the final third. Steven Naismith missed two good chances and James Morrison forced a good late save.

Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall did not have a save to make, although Georgia sub Irakli Dzaria missed the target from 18 yards when presented with a decent chance in the final 15 minutes.

For Maloney, the display showed Scotland are a team which is continuing to grow in confidence, with a further test to come tomorrow when they take on a Poland side fresh from victory over world champions Germany.

Maloney, whose 27th-minute drive eventually founds its way into the net off Akaki Khubutia, said: “It’s something that we are not really known for, a nation that has a higher pass retention and more possession than the other team, but we are slowly trying to change that.

“We are trying to change that throughout the age groups but the most important thing at the moment is the first team and the manager has been speaking about it for the last 12 months or so. On Saturday night it probably came to fruition but I think it will be a completely different game in Poland as I don’t think we will have as much of the ball as that.

“In the last ten minutes we could have probably kept the ball a bit better and maybe not attacked every time we got it, and seen the game out a little bit more comfortably. But maybe I’m nit-picking. I think overall we have got to be pretty impressed with the first 70 minutes.”

Scotland’s qualifying campaign for the Brazil World Cup – the latest in a long line of failures – was undermined from the start when home draws with Serbia and Macedonia put pressure on them and led to calls for manager Craig Levein to be sacked. Levein survived for two more games but they were defeats in Wales and Belgium which left Strachan with an insurmountable task when he took over. Given that painful experience, Maloney was well aware how important winning the Ibrox encounter was.

“It was a huge game for us to win,” he said. “We have spoken about how well we have done in the last 18 months but now these games really matter, getting a home win was so important. We saw it out. We should have got at least a couple more so the last ten minutes were a little bit uncomfortable.

“But it takes a little bit of pressure off us. The home games come with pressure from the fans and the expectations of trying to win your home games will transfer to Poland. I think we’ll be tactically different and a little bit of pressure might come off us.”

Scotland have already won in Warsaw this year – Scott Brown netting the only goal in a March friendly. And previous away wins in Croatia, Norway and Macedonia under Strachan can give Scotland confidence for Tuesday night’s game, no matter how buoyant the hosts will be following their 2-0 victory over Germany.

Maloney said: “Recently we have been pretty good away from home. The pace of [Ikechi] Anya has been huge and obviously Alan Hutton and [Andrew] Robertson, full-backs that pushed up on Saturday. It’s a huge advantage if you’ve got pace in your side and at the minute we’ve got that.”