LIKE every Scotland fan, Paul Hartley was delighted with how Steve Clarke’s side performed in their 1-0 triumph over Austria in Vienna on Tuesday evening.

But Hartley took exception when his former team mate Craig Gordon afterwards described the performance as better than the one that had secured a memorable victory over France in Paris back in 2007.

“I don’t know about that!” he joked yesterday as he looked back on the famous win that he helped Alex McLeish’s men to record in the Parc des Princes 14 years ago.

“It was backs to the wall that game. We had to fight for that result. We were under the cosh for a lot of the game.

“Defensively as a unit we were solid and then we had that moment when Faddy (James McFadden) scored that goal. Sometimes you have to hang on, international football is not easy. There is never an easy game."

Hartley was unable to help Scotland clinch a place at the Euro 2008 finals despite that win – and he is optimistic the bid to reach Qatar 2022 has a more favourable outcome. 

“The last two results against Moldova and Austria have put us in a really good strong position,” said the 25-times capped midfielder. 

“Listen, I thought it was a really good performance, both attacking and defending. There has been a lot of criticism of the team, but for me it has been unjustified. We have got really good players, the right manager and are heading in the right direction.

“Israel will be a big game next month. Winning that is so important. We have had tight games against them in the last few years. But it will be a sell-out after the Austria result. There will be 52,000 fans there and if we can get the Tartan Army right behind us I am sure we can do it. 

“It is a six o’clock kick-off so I will definitely be tuning in after the Cove Rangers game, that’s for sure.”

Hartley was pleased to see Gordon, who he played with at both Hearts and Scotland, back in the national side in the Group F match in Vienna.

He is confident the 38-year-old - who was only restored to the starting line-up because David Marshall, who has not been playing for Derby County this season, was omitted from the squad – can maintain his form and hold onto his place. 

“The way that Craig fought back after spending two years out through injury was amazing,” he said. “His levels of consistency are impressive. He is a top, top keeper.

“I spent four years at Hearts with him so I know what he is capable of. He is so calm. When he has to produce big saves he does so.

“We have got a lot of good keepers. We have been blessed with the keepers we have had in the last 10 to 15 years. We have had Craig, Allan McGregor, David Marshall. We have a lot of good goalies.

“If Craig stays injury-free there is no doubt he can play on into his forties. He won’t lose his ability, that’s for sure. Goalkeepers can play well into their forties. If he can avoid injuries he can play on at a high level.”