It may not be a case of mission accomplished just yet but Scotland should be proud of taking another important step on their journey back to international respectability.
A 2-0 win in Moldova means Scotland will be in the play-offs for the World Cup. Now all they need is to come through a semi-final and final to book their place in Qatar.
Competing in the Euros in the summer was a breakthrough moment for the national team but as enjoyable as playing at Hampden and Wembley was, the international stage is where the Tartan Army wants to be.
The World Cup is the biggest party of all as far as Scotland and their supporters are concerned and the dream of the national footsoldiers travelling en masse to Qatar in 12 months’ time is inching ever closer to becoming reality.
It was fitting that it was exactly a year ago, November 12 2020, where 22 years of hurt officially ended thanks to David Marshall’s penalty heroics in Serbia.
A night where a nation in the middle of a global pandemic, roared in unison from their homes and revelled in seeing Andy Robertson and his team-mates racing towards their goalkeeper to celebrate.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 12, 2021
The hoodoo had been ended, the cycle of one wretched run failed qualifying campaign after another was no more.
That same feelgood factor followed the team into the three group games of the delayed Euro 2020 in the summer but this Scotland team, having broken free of the shackles of the past, is showing a steely determination to ensure there will be more tournament finals to savour.
Qatar – with its strict alcohol laws – may not have been top of the Tartan Army’s list of destinations but the notion of sitting idle at home while a unique and historic winter edition of the World Cup is taking place does not bear thinking about.
That’s the funny thing about getting a taste of the action. You want more. It is why those late winners last month against Israel and the Faroe Islands have been celebrated with such gusto.
The appetite has been whetted for more tournaments. This team is giving its all to make it happen again.
The manager, is also fast becoming a man willing to take risks as his decision to put both Nathan Patterson and Billy Gilmour, two promising young players but also a duo who have hardly played, in his starting line-up in Moldova.
The younger members of the team were not the only players in need of match practice with Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney in action for the first time since October 18 after missing club matches due to an ankle injury.
Clarke’s calculated risk paid off as he watched his side record the win they needed to progress to the play-offs with the trio of Patterson, Gilmour and Tierney in particular standing out in what was a fine team display.
Give the players their due too, they started the game in Chisinau as if it was the last 10 minutes, not the first and the big surprise was that it took until the 38th minute for the opener to come as Rangers full back Paterson finished in style following terrific hold-up play from John McGinn.
Che Adams, who was given the nod in the absence of the suspended Lyndon Dykes, had an opening hour where he seemed destined to draw a blank with an early goal disallowed for offside before chances would not drop his way or were fired wide when they did.
But all that frustration lifted in the 65th minute as McGinn and Patterson combined again to create space in the box for the Rangers right back to pick out the Southampton striker to score the goal which put the game beyond the game but outmatched hosts.
Adams had the ball in the net again, only for it to again be disallowed for offside, before Patterson blotted his copybook with a daft handball to concede a penalty but Craig Gordon followed in the spot kick footsteps of Marshall a year ago by saving Vadim Rata’s effort from 12 yards.
Gordon’s save was terrific but Tierney’s follow-up challenge to deny Rata a tap-in for the rebound was outstanding and it ensured there would be no late drama, no nervous finale. Not this time at least.