SCOTLAND produced a result in Luxembourg that felt like a posthumous indictment of the manager who is no longer in charge.
Craig Levein did have some successes in friendlies but there were elements of this welcome victory which seemed like a very specific rebuke of what he stood for. Scotland threw a handful of strikers at a modest opponent and, hey presto, they got goals and a win.
Levein was reluctant to play with two forwards and unsure of Jordan Rhodes' readiness for international football. Interim manager Billy Stark had no such qualms and was rewarded with a win in which the young Blackburn Rovers striker scored twice, taking his tally to three goals in five Scotland appearances. He played alongside Kenny Miller and they were a front two with two other attackers, Steven Naismith and debutant Andrew Shinnie, supporting from the wings.
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Before the game was out another, Leigh Griffiths, came on for his debut, too. Five strikers? Goals? A victory? The Tartan Army cruelly chanted "are you watching, Craig Levein?" If he was, it may have been through the gaps between his fingers.
No need for any open-topped bus parade at Hampden on the back of this, though. Israel put six unanswered goals past Luxembourg in a World Cup tie here last month. In truth Scotland petered out a bit after Rhodes' two early goals and they allowed the country ranked 144th in the world a worrying number of chances. If goalkeeper Matt Gilks' handling had not been sound they might not have had a win at all. Still, the night was satisfying for Stark.
Before the match there was a report that Gordon Strachan had indicated that he would prefer to wait for another position in club management rather than take the Scotland job. That was totally contrary to the Scottish Football Association's understanding, though, and the governing body has no intention of ruling him out. Strachan remains a live candidate and is the favoured option for many Scotland supporters.
But this game, at least, was about Stark. His team looked fresh. Just 18 months ago Rangers released Shinnie yet here he was becoming the first Inverness Caledonian Thistle player to appear in a full Scotland team. He was the only uncapped player in Stark's starting XI but it was still a deeply inexperienced side, six of whom had fewer than five of caps at kick-off. Kris Commons was rendered unavailable by injury on the day of the game, leaving Charlie Mulgrew as the only representative from Celtic. He was withdrawn at half-time, which would have pleased Neil Lennon as well as allowing Kilmarnock's Liam Kelly to come on for his senior Scotland debut.
Clearly Luxembourg City has no shortage of attractions for the locals on a bitterly cold Wednesday night in November. Or perhaps the natives had paint to watch drying in preference to the appeal of turning up to watch their men play Scotland. The Stade Josy Barthel holds 8000 but only 2521 were in the ground and the majority of those were from the Tartan Army. They amuse themselves by going to great effort and expense to attend these daft sorts of games and could not be begrudged a win given the dross they have often had to put up with over the years.
The pitch was slippy and difficult, but something about this place seems to appeal to Rhodes. He scored a hat trick here in an under-21 game last year and did not take long to rattle more past the nation's senior team. Ante Bukvic got himself into a mess trying to defend Paul Dixon's fine cross and Rhodes was on it like a shot to nod it over the line.
If that was a poacher's finish then he quickly added another. Shinnie's shot was parried by goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert and broke perfectly for Rhodes to ram home his second. If he had not put his very first chance wide of the post he would have had a hat trick within 23 minutes. Instead he remained on two, meaning that Colin Stein's distinction as the last player to score three for Scotland – he actually managed four against Cyprus in 1969 – survived. Rhodes did head the ball into the net in the closing minutes but was ruled offside.
Some of the early interplay between the forwards was crisp and nimble. Naismith began on the left with Shinnie on the right but they soon switched wings. Luxembourg learned how to deny Scotland space, though, and grew into the game. Mario Mutsch had a header saved, and a couple of minutes later the same player lashed a shot wide. Charles Leweck missed another.
A couple of minutes into the second half they got the goal they deserved when Lars Gerson swept a free-kick past Gilks. They would have had an equaliser had the goalkeeper not done enough, just, to keep out Stefano Bensi's header. David Turpel later fizzed a delivery across and it all got a little hairy. On the balance of chances the result flattered Scotland.
Still, if this is Stark's only game in charge he will have a 100% record. He who dares, wins.