It wasn’t totally convincing – but Scotland got Steve Clarke’s reign as manager off to a winning start in what was a must-win game.
The national side beat Cyprus 2-1 at Hampden on Saturday with Oli Burke popping up with a late goal to snatch all three points.
Although it was the first game of Clarke’s tenure, to keep the Dark Blues’ hopes of reaching next year’s European Championships through qualifying Group I alive, victory at the national stadium was essential.
There’s no doubt if Scotland hadn’t won the game hopes of finishing in the top two in the group – and qualifying without the need for the UEFA Nations League play-off – would have been over.
In recent times we have a history of dropping points at home which has cost us.
My theory in qualifying is that when Scotland play sides that are lower-ranked at home they have to win.
If you don’t beat those teams at Hampden it puts you on the back foot in terms of qualifying.
In recent campaigns we have drawn at home with teams like Lithuania which has made it difficult to qualify.
If you drop points to lower-ranked nations at home you are left searching for wins away from home, which are often tougher to come by.
If Scotland are to qualify realistically they needed to beat Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino – who are all lower-ranked – home and away.
That was what made the 3-0 defeat to the Kazakhs in Nursultan at the beginning of the campaign so disappointing.
We also have Belgium and Russia to play twice which are the most difficult games.
To finish in the top two we will probably need to beat one of those two at home and get something away from home.
So it was vital to win against Cyprus – otherwise, our hopes of being in the top two would have been over.
Everybody will be relieved with the result and particularly the manager Clarke.
He wanted to get his tenure off to a winning start – especially in front of the Tartan Army.
It wasn’t a convincing win by any means, but the most important thing on Saturday was the result and Scotland got that.
Clarke has only had a limited amount of time to work with the players.
It looked in the game as if there was uncertainty among some players – there were some good performances, but also some average performances.
It was a mixed bag for the Dark Blues really.
The plusses were the result, some good individual displays and at times you could see the shape Clarke was trying to get the team to play in.
He is the type of manager who will make Scotland tough to beat.
But there is still a lot of work to do before we see the full effect Clarke can have on Scotland both in terms of how the team plays and the results they get.
Tomorrow it’s a stern test for the national side when they take on Belgium, the world’s No 1 ranked team, in Brussels.
However, the shape and style Clarke wants Scotland to play in may be more effective against the Belgians than against the likes of Cyprus.
Under Clarke we might not see hugely expansive football, but that shouldn’t comes as a surprise.
His Kilmarnock team was very well-organised, defensively astute and good at hitting on the counter-attack.
Usually when Killie got a goal up they would manage to see the game out and not give anything away.
It will be interesting to see tomorrow how effective Clarke’s tactics can be against Belgium.
If the Scots can get a positive result or produce a good performance it will only add to optimism around Clarke’s appointment.
And it’s likely the set-up of the team will suit this game more than the clash with Cyprus.