Football: McCoist sets Scotland in motion

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The Independent Online
Scotland. .3

Malta . . .0

SCOTLAND, who had not scored at Ibrox since 1938, helped themselves to three goals against Malta last night. Ally McCoist claimed two and Pat Nevin a late third to secure the Scots' first win in four qualifying matches, although in the event of Group One going down to the wire they may come to rue a wasted penalty by Gary McAllister.

Two points and an overdue flurry of goals, albeit against opponents who have never won a World Cup fixture, means Scotland will travel to Lisbon for the vital game against Portugal on 28 April in better heart.

The evening was also a public-relations success. A near-capacity gathering of 35,490 was bolstered by the 17,000 children who availed themselves of the Scottish FA's scheme to attract new recruits to the Tartan Army. They sounded like a hockey crowd at Wembley, but the gate was bigger than for Italy's visit.

They witnessed a positive if at times over-anxious Scottish display, in which the goalscorers were joined by the 22-year-old Aberdeen striker Eoin Jess as the most conspicuous successes. After surrender in Switzerland and barren nights at home to the Italians and Portuguese, Roxburgh had few complaints.

The Scotland coach felt his team might have shown more composure in front of goal, but added that they did not have much luck either. He was lavish in his praise of Jess, who did everything but score on a highly promising first full appearance.

Roxburgh had underlined his attacking intentions by opting for a back three and recalling Nevin. The ploy was vindicated in the 15th minute, when the winger skipped past Richard Buhagiar. His low cross reached McCoist, lurking near the penalty spot, who dispatched a half-volley beyond the Maltese keeper.

It was a cathartic moment - the Scots' first goal in 272 minutes' action - and should have been followed by another just after the half- hour. McCoist was fouled by Buhagiar as they waited for John Collins's punt to defend, only for McAllister's spot-kick to strike the underside of the bar before being cleared.

Scotland's nerves were settled after 67 minutes. Roxburgh had just responded to mounting adolescent angst from the stands by sending on an extra forward, John Robertson, when Jess raced clear onto Collins's long free-kick. Jess fed McCoist, who side-footed home from close range.

It was an historical goal, too, McCoist's 15th for his country, taking him past the record for a Rangers player held for 82 years by one Bob Hamilton.

Nevin capped an industrious return with Scotland's third five minutes from time. Jess was again involved, receiving a short corner from Paul McStay before crossing into a congested six-yard area, where the Tranmere man pounced.

Scotland: Goram (Rangers); McPherson (Rangers), Boyd, McStay (both Celtic), McLeish (Aberdeen), McLaren (Heart of Midlothian), Nevin (Tranmere), McAllister (Leeds), McCoist (Rangers), Collins (Celtic), Jess (Aberdeen). Substitutes: Robertson (Heart of Midlothian) for McPherson, 64; Ferguson (Rangers) for McAllister, 72.

Malta: Cluett (Floriana); S Vella (Rabat Ajax), Buhagiar (Floriana), Galea (Hamrun Spartans), Brincat (Hamrun Spartans), Buttigieg (Floriana), Busuttil (Genk), Saliba, J Camilleri, Laferla (all Valletta), Sultana (Hamrun Spartans). Substitutes: R Vella (St Andrews) for Sultana, 74; E Camilleri (Hibernians) for Buhagiar, 82.

Referee: I Koho (Finland).