Scotland 1 Lithuania 0
Scotland are still in the chase for a play-off place but need Lithuania to take points off the Czech Republic while they they beat Spain We still have a dream thanks to Steven Naismith who scored early in the second half against a disappointing Lithuania. It was also disappointing that Scotland did not press home their advantage clearly displayed in the first hour, including a missed penalty by Darren Fletcher, to save the nails of the majority of the 34,071 fans (including Scott Brown, Davie Weir, Ally McCoist and Kenny Miller) from being bitten to the quick over the last ten minutes plus three minutes injury time. The single goal advantage looked decidedly vulnerable as the game move towards it's conclusion with a huge sigh of relief echoing around Hampden when the final whistle blew. Scotland's win means we are now two points behind the Czech Republic with two games to play as both battle for a play-off spot to make the finals to be played in Poland and the Ukraine. Manager Craig Levein had to contend with selection problems as Kenny Miller and Scott Brown were both suspended, while Barry Robson and Charlie Adam missed out through injury. This provided an opportunity for David Goodwillie, Barry Bannan and Don Cowie to make their competitive debuts from the start, with Steven Whittaker returning from a ban to take his place in the starting line-up. The first real chance of the game came from a Bannan corner which was nodded across goal by Phil Bardsley. The ball fell for Christophe Berra at the back post only for the defender to hit the ball high and wide from close range. Scotland were up for the game and continued to push forward in search of the opener and Goodwillie's short pass was collected by Cowie but he was just off target with a well-struck shot. Bannan then tried his luck from distance but his effort dipped well over the crossbar and never really troubled Zydrunas Karcemarskas in the Lithuania goal. The Aston Villa midfielder attempted to turn provider with a long ball into the path of Naismith but his diving header was gathered by the goalkeeper. Scotland looked more likely to open the scoring than their visitors and Fletcher tested Karcemarskas with a stinging shot at his near post, before Naismith nodded just over from the resulting corner kick. Scotland should have opened the scoring a minute before half-time when Tadas Labukas handled Bannan's free-kick in the box and referee Kristinn Jakobsson pointed to the spot before brandishing a yellow card. Bannan looked keen to take the ball for the penalty but it was Fletcher who stepped up for the spot-kick. Unfortunately, Karcemarskas guessed correctly and dived to his left to block the ball giving Scotland a well-deserved half-time lead However, Scotland went some way to making amends when they did open the scoring just four minutes into the second half. Goodwillie's pass picked out the impressive Bannan and he delivered a cross from the right for Naismith who connected with a half-volley which smacked off the inside of the post and and into the back of the net. There was a degree of relief in the cheers that greeted the goal. For some reason, Scotland appeared to lose the momentum they had gathered once the ball hit the net. The front men of Naismith, Bannan and Goodwillie had been like terriers from the start and some leg weariness must have been behind Scotland going off the boil. This handed the initiative to Lithuania who had the chance to apply some pressure when they were handed a free-kick 25 yards out after Berra was judged to have handled but Ramunas Radavicius' effort failed to make it past the wall as Scotland held firm. At the other end, the referee could have awarded another penalty when Deividas Cesnauskis appeared to handle a Goodwillie cross before Naismith had the chance to connect with the header. The Rangers midfielder then nodded over from six yards moments later as another opportunity was squandered, before hooking over the crossbar in the final minutes of the game. Barry Bannan was named man of the match and not many appeared to disagree. The hunger and skill shown by the trio of Bannan, Naismith and Goodwillie must be welcomed by Levein ahead of next month's double-header against Liechtenstein and Spain.
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