Football: Goal earns promotion for Collins

Latvia 0 Scotland 2

PHIL SHAW

reports from Daugava Stadium, Riga

Latvia 0 Scotland 2

Behind the spartan stand where the 800 Scotland supporters congregated runs the railway line from Riga to St Petersburg, which on a good day is a 12-hour haul. Qualifying for the World Cup finals is a similarly arduous journey, but the Scots' road to France in 1998 is beginning to look a little clearer.

Although these are early days in the Group Four campaign, this success gives Craig Brown's team a healthy four points from two awkward-looking away fixtures. Victory on Wednesday over Latvia's ostensibly weaker Baltic neighbours, Estonia, would set Scotland up nicely for next month's crucial encounter with Sweden in Glasgow, if not exactly sending their followers scurrying for the Michelin guide.

In Tallinn, they will be without their inspirational captain, Gary McAllister, who is suspended after picking up a caution to add to the one he received in Austria last month, as well as lacking the injured Stuart McCall. John Collins, scorer of a sublime goal in the Latvian capital, will don the skipper's armband for the first time in his 39 caps.

The Scotland manager reasoned that Collins, his only ever-present during the qualifying for the European Championship finals, is held in the highest esteem by his colleagues. While the 28-year-old midfielder is undemonstrative - he scarcely batted an eyelid on hearing of his elevation - Brown is confident that he will lead by example.

He certainly did so on Saturday, giving Scotland the early advantage they craved from the kind of imaginative free-kick routine that was conspicuous by its absence throughout the great summer football-fest. McCall rolled the ball short to Collins, who put a foot on it as McAllister thundered in like a latter-day Peter Lorimer.

As he drew back his right foot, Collins suddenly spun away with the ball before despatching it beyond the goalkeeper from 18 yards. He recalled scoring from an identical ruse for Celtic against Rangers one New Year's Day, though his ninth goal for Scotland was the culmination of lengthy practice on the playing fields of Stratford-upon-Avon during Euro 96.

Darren Jackson, like Collins a former Hibernian player, settled the issue with his first goal in 13 internationals. Cementing the impression that this was a triumph with its origins at Easter Road, another one-time Hibs favourite, Andy Goram, underlined his status as a world-class keeper with an extraordinary save either side of Jackson's clincher.

It was, notwithstanding the loss of two key players, a satisfying evening for a makeshift Scotland side. As Brown conceded, he had been "very worried about Latvia - I thought it could have been a banana skin for us." The intensity of his team's football in the opening half-hour was on a par with their display against Switzerland at Villa Park. Only after McCall retired, allowing Vitalijs Astafjevs to power forward, were they under any pressure.

After yesterday's Under-21 match, the Scots made the short hop to Tallinn. Awaiting them was Brown's "spy", Frank Coulston, the Scottish FA coach, who watched Estonia beat Belarus on Saturday to record their first competitive win in the five years since the Baltic states regained independence.

The management expect the Estonians to adhere rigidly to a negative 4- 1-4-1 system, and Scotland will adjust accordingly. "We won't need three at the back if they only have one up," Brown reasoned. "We could play a 2-4-4, but we're more likely to go for 2-5-3." In that event, Derek Whyte would probably drop out of defence. Craig Burley could move inside as part of a central midfield trio with Collins and possibly Scot Gemmill, with Jackie McNamara starting an international for the first time at wing-back.

The absence of McAllister and McCall means Scotland will be without seven of their original squad. However, if fortune proves as faithful a friend to Brown as trouble - which is always there for him - then three points in Estonia will be accompanied by a draw between Sweden and Austria the same evening.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence