FORMER Scotland captain Paul Lambert believes that Wednesday night’s

1-0 victory against Austria

in Vienna was the best performance by the national team since World Cup finalists France were beaten by the same scoreline in the Parc des Princes and that the result could ultimately prove to be even more significant than that success in Paris.

Lyndon Dykes’ penalty kick could not compare with James McFadden’s spectacular, swerving 35-yarder, which proved enough to do the double against all-time greats Patrick Vieira, Lilian Thuram, Eric Abidal, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema but Scotland failed to progress from their Euro 2008 qualifying group while their good night in Vienna means they may yet reach next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, goalkeeper Craig Gordon is the only player who appeared in both games (McFadden and unused substitute Kris Boyd worked as analysts for Sky on Wednesday) and, three months short of his 39th birthday, he’ll be hoping this campaign can climax with him finally participating at the business end of a major tournament.

Lambert, meanwhile, was delighted to see the return of a traditional, in-your-face approach from Scotland, whose energy, controlled aggression, courage and no little ability saw them emerge triumphant in what should be a pivotal match in Group F.

The win restored them to second place behind runaway leaders Denmark. Clarke’s men are one point clear of Israel, whom they host at Hampden in four weeks’ time, and four ahead of Wednesday’s opponents. Three victories from their four remaining ties would guarantee a play-off place before the final fixture against the Danes in Glasgow on November 15. With six points effectively nailed on from visits to the Faroe Islands and Moldova, the meeting with Israel will be key but Lambert is confident of the outcome.

“We have our Scotland back,” he said. “We may have looked as though we gave Denmark too much respect by standing off them in Copenhagen last week, although our 2-0 defeat to the group leaders doesn’t look too bad now when you compare it to their other wins.

“It was all very different in Vienna, though. We were at it from the first whistle, pushing up on the Austrians, hassling them and putting them under pressure for the entire game.

“They were already feeling the heat after losing 5-2 in Israel at the weekend so they went into Wednesday’s game knowing that the crowd would turn on them if things didn’t go their way – and that’s exactly how it turned out.

“Austria might not be one of the top-tier nations but they’re tough opponents@ they got out of their group at Euro 2020 and then took the Italians to extra time before going down 2-1. Which is why I believe that this was Scotland’s best result and performance away from home since James McFadden scored that spectacular goal to beat France in Paris back in 2007.

“In fact, this one could prove to be even better than that night’s because we didn’t qualify in 2007 and this time we might. We’re in the driving seat for a play-off place now and, if we win our next game at home against Israel, we’ll be pretty much home and hosed because you’d fancy us to take six points away to the Faroes and Moldova.”

One of the most pleasing factors for Lambert on Wednesday was the togetherness in evidence as players helped and fought for each other at times when, as was always going to happen, Austria had the visitors under the cosh in the Erns Happel Stadion.

“When you go to big arenas, you need everyone to be at it and I’d say that every player in the Scotland team on Wednesday was a 9/10,” he said. “Everyone stepped up to the plate and we defended superbly, leaving no space for the Austrians to run into behind us: in fact, Craig Gordon had only one save to make and he did it superbly.

“As far as I’m concerned, it was a stonewall penalty when [Lyndon Dykes scored]– their player was nowhere near the ball when he was all over Che Adams – and we created other chances which could have made it more comfortable for us.

“It beggars belief that Steve Clarke was taking stick before this game, just months after taking us to the finals of a major tournament for the first time in 23 years but he manages to ignore all the noise and concentrate on getting the job done. Which he certainly did here.

“Like the Craig Brown team I played in, which used to qualify for the big events on a regular basis, this is a tight-knit group of players and you rarely have people calling off. You can tell they’re united and fighting for the cause.

“A similar showing to the one against Austria should see us beat Israel and, with a full house at Hampden, the place will be bouncing.”