Belarus .................. 0, Scotland .................. 1

Scotland captain Gary McAllister took his first penalty kick for his country since Wembley last summer and propelled his team towards the world cup finals in France next year.

The Wembley penalty, which he missed against England, ended Scotland's European Championship dreams. Yesterday's kick in Minsk, four minutes into the second half of the World Cup qualifier against Belarus, makes Scotland favourites to march on to the finals

The memory of the Wembley miss must have been going through the captain's mind as he went forward yesterday afternoon to take the kick, which eventually decided the game.

However, the Coventry City midfielder accepted the responsibility and struck a shot which beat Andrei Satsounkevitch and ended in the roof of the net.

The penalty had arrived after one of the few moments of clever attacking play that the makeshift Scotland team had been able to put together.

Darren Jackson, always at the heart of any attacking moves, played a one-two with Gordon Durie and as the Hibs player moved menacingly into the penalty box he was brought down by Erik Lakkimovich. The Turkish referee, who had not been kindly towards the Scots before this, pointed to the penalty spot immediately.

McAllister came forward, the Tartan Army sat in silence, and then erupted as the ball went in.

It was the goal which decided the game, and the goal which may yet carry Scotland to the finals.

The Scots remain at the top of the qualifying group and have two home games against Belarus and Latvia still awaiting them. That is not a daunting prospect.

Yesterday might have been different. Manager Craig Brown arrived in Minsk with a make-shift team. He had to try to lift the players whose season had ended some weeks ago, and yet, once again, Brown and his men produced the desired result.

This was not a memorable performance. Once again Scotland scuffled their way towards the win which meant so much to them - and a win they might not have been celebrating but for the consistency of Jim Leighton in goal and some good fortune which they had in the opening minutes.

It was the sixth minute when the luck counted. A free kick taken by Lakkimovich beat Leighton and then struck a post.

It was a moment that might have altered all the predictions, and ended the dreams of France and the finals.

Scotland survived, however, and they continued to survive not just in that frantic opening spell but also towards the end of the game when they had dropped back into defence and allowed the Belarus side too much space and too much possession.

Really, in the first half there were very few moments which might have brought optimism to the few hundred fans who had travelled to the heart of what was once the Soviet Union.

In 32 minutes Kevin Gallacher pushed the ball to Tosh McKinlay and his cross ran just beyond Durie's reach in front of goal.

There were times, too, when Scotland seemed under pressure and David Hopkin and Gordon Durie were both given yellow cards by the Turkish referee as they attempted to stem the tide of Belarus attacks.

The goal should have changed things and, briefly it did. Gallacher saw a shot stopped by the keeper after Hopkin and Gary McAllister had made ground down the right before the captain crossed. But, as Belarus began to change their team - they pushed on three substitutes in a 15-minute spell, the game began to drift away from the Scots.

There was a shot from Darren Jackson, which was held by the keeper but the Belarus team pushed forward more and more as the Scots began to tire in the 75 degree heat of the stadium.

By now Brown, too, had made changes. Scott Gemmill replaced Hopkin and then Brian McAllister took over from Tosh McKinlay, but the changes could not alter the fact that Belarus had taken control and that Scotland were being pushed further and further back to the dangerous area around their own penalty box.

Seven minutes from the end Tom Boyd mis-hit a pass-back and one of the substitutes, Vladimir Makovski collected the ball, pushed it to Sergei Gerssimets, and Scott Gemmill arrived just in time to block his shot from close range. There was another escape a minute later when Christian Dailly chested a cross from Dimitri Balachov past a post and wide for a corner as Leighton was once again threatened .

Before the end Billy Dodds replaced Jackson and the final whistle came as a relief.

It was an untidy game, a game that Scotland will not want to remember - except, of course, for the result.

That was what was important. The late Jock Stein used to say that players put on their working clothes to qualify, and kept their best suits for the finals.

Yesterday, Scotland wore overalls and some of the players who managed to get this so important result may not be in France if the team do qualify.

They will have to be content in knowing that they played their part.