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Duncan Shearer: Scotland must ensure there is no unfinished business following Moldova trip

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke

Scotland are in a great position, but they need to get the job done by booking a World Cup qualifying play-off spot in Moldova on Friday.

The Scots know only one victory is needed to secure their place in the play-offs in March, and move a step closer to reaching next winter’s finals in Qatar.

The feel-good factor is well and truly back following the last few games, most notably the dramatic 3-2 victory over Israel at Hampden in October.

Scotland will make the trip to Chisinau aiming to clock up a fifth successive win, and they will be firm favourites against a nation ranked 181st in the world.

A failure to deliver will not kill off Scotland’s chances, but we don’t want to be going into the Denmark game on Monday still needing something.

It could work the other way, as the Danes could rest some of their key players given they have already qualified comfortably as runaway group winners.

The prospect of having unfinished business to take care of on Monday is not something Steve Clarke will want to fathom, though. He will be eager to get the job done to remove any pressure going into the final group fixture.

Moldova won’t be an easy opposition

That said, it will not be easy to take care of Moldova at their own place.

I always worry about Scotland when they go into any game as favourites, to be honest. When the onus is on us to take the game to a team it can sometimes become difficult.

Scotland will need to rise to the occasion, but they have a whole week to prepare for it.

The Scots made a rapid start when they last faced Friday’s opponents at Hampden Park in September, taking the lead through an early Lyndon Dykes goal.

Although they were unable to kill the game off with a second goal, Clarke will be looking for more of the same from the first whistle this weekend.

Dykes and Ryan Christie will both be absent from Friday’s match due to suspension, which will bring about a change to the forward line.

With a couple of spaces available, any player coming in will have to show their worth.

It could present an opportunity for Jacob Brown, who was called up to the squad for the first time last week. He will be looking to show people what he’s all about.

Jacob Brown in action for Stoke City.

Brown scored for Stoke City at the weekend to take his tally for the season to five.

Although he is an unknown quantity for most of the Tartan Army, he will undoubtedly come into the camp full of confidence.

Whichever side Clarke picks, hopefully there will be enough quality on the park to book our place in those play-offs.

Should we succeed, Clarke will then have a number of months to prepare his squad for a tilt at reaching another major tournament.

Dons brought back down to earth with a bump

I just didn’t see Aberdeen’s defeat to Motherwell coming.

They got the much-needed win against Hibs, took a point against Rangers at Ibrox, before they got another good win against Hearts.

It shows how quickly things can turn. It had turned in Aberdeen’s favour in recent weeks, but it could now spin the other way again.

Managers and coaches will always say they are taking one game at a time, but that’s what Stephen Glass has to do. I thought they would take care of Motherwell, but the nature of the business is that it can change so quickly.

Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass at full-time after the 2-0 loss to Motherwell.

I remember the game when Steve Paterson went down to Celtic with an Aberdeen team full of kids. We beat them 2-1 to inflict their first home defeat in 78 games, during which time they had beaten the likes of Juventus, Barcelona and Liverpool.

I remember Martin O’Neill coming into the office after the game and clipping Steve around the ear, saying that the kick up the backside is just around the corner. You just can’t rest on your laurels in football.

It was disappointing, because I would have liked to see Aberdeen go into the international break having built on their recent form.

It’s the old adage of sticking the ball in the net when you’ve got the advantage in the game. It seems easier to defend and hit on the break than it is to attack teams.

At the end of the day, it’s not up to Motherwell to entertain the Aberdeen fans.

The Dons just have to knuckle down and get ready for their next game away to Dundee United.

Staggies must tighten up at crucial juncture in season

I think Malky Mackay will be disappointed at Ross County coming back from Ibrox with nothing.

I don’t think anyone could complain Rangers deserved to win the game, but if you score two goals at Ibrox you expect to get something.

The Staggies need to start shutting that back door. It’s been like that most of the season.

Jordan White netted for Ross County against Rangers.

They are creating chances in every game and they always look like they will score goals, but they need to try and rack up more clean sheets as they have only recorded two this season.

County were on a high from the Dundee game, but then had two matches called off against Hibernian.

After the defeat to Rangers, they now have another couple of weeks before they are next in action.

Malky will need to use that time to try and pick them up again. We are coming into the middle of the season, so they really need to start making it count when they create all these chances in games.

They are four points adrift of Dundee and they don’t want to be extending that any further. They need to try and avoid leaving it late like last year, when they were scraping it out in the final weeks of the season to stay in the division.

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