FOOTBALL: Brown answers Scotland's critics

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BY PHIL SHAW

Shortly before Colin Calderwood's late header completed Scotland's 2- 0 victory in their European Championship qualifier in San Marino, a media veteran let out a cry from the heart: "We played better against Iran in '78.''

Back home, those who had watched live television coverage from the Serravalle Stadium began ringing Radio Clyde's phone-in. The first three callers demanded the sacking of Scotland's manager, Craig Brown.

Surprised by the negative reaction, Brown hailed a "very professional performance". To the scribes and supporters who felt the miniscule mountain republic should have been beaten by a landslide, he offered mitigation.

"We're missing half a team - McCoist, Gallacher, Booth, Ferguson, Goram, McStay and McCall," Brown said. Any of the first four named, if fit, might have played ahead of the essentially limited strike-force of John McGinlay and Duncan Shearer, and Scotland's prospects could still founder on a lack of scoring power.

Calderwood is a centre-back, and the first scorer, John Collins, a midfielder. His solo goal, after a 70-yard run, was his fourth in six group matches. The tartan David Platt's left-side link with his Celtic colleague, Tom Boyd, did most to undermine San Marino's cynical bid to redefine defending in depth.

The Scots' next Group Eight game is on another outcrop of rock masquerading as a nation, the Faroe Islands. While 7 June is too soon for Gary McAllister, who faces groin surgery in mid-May, the captain should be fully restored for two six-pointers ahead.

Greece, humbled at home by the favourites, Russia, and yet to visit Moscow, come to Glasgow in August, followed by Finland. "I'd predict that we've got to beat the Greeks to be sure of going through," Brown said. "The Finns are dark horses, but I'm willing to bet that if we win our last four, we'll qualify.''

En route to the 1992 finals, Andy Roxburgh's side also laboured to a 2-0 win in San Marino. Then, as in November, Scotland finished at home to the Sammarinese. In the event of an identical outcome, Brown's head will end up on T-shirts, rather than on a platter.

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