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35 of 046

Young guns fired up while veteran attacker plays defensive role

WHEN the chance came, Kenny Miller was ready.

Anticipating its arrival, he shifted his weight, positioned himself and attacked decisively. Sadly for the striker, his colleagues and the Scotland supporters, the Vancouver Whitecaps forward reserved such assuredness for the hours after yesterday's frustrating draw.

That the 32-year-old was defensive in front of the media was understandable. How painful must it be for a redoubtable national servant, one who has hauled himself halfway round the world from his Canadian base, to have to listen to the massed ranks of the Tartan Army howl for the introduction of Jordan Rhodes after another ineffective and ponderous attack fizzles out?

Miller, it should be said, did not play particularly poorly. Indeed, he offered exactly the industrious, selfless attacking performance that has marked his international appearances. What he did do poorly, however, was the very thing for which the clinical Rhodes has established a reputation: converting chances.

Granted, Miller's openings were fleeting. One dash on to a Charlie Adam pass resulted in a miscued cross rather than a shot when he was forced wide, but he should have made more of two headed opportunities; totally misjudging a James Morrison chip from deep and failing to make sufficient contact just a few yards out, then scudding an Adam cross skywards rather than at goal.

Asked about those attempts, though, Miller responded: "What chances? I thought the one Morrison put back over was offside so I didn't react. I can't remember another one."

The striker was equally brusque when it came to the effect this draw may have on Scotland's qualification hopes. Echoing the thoughts of several of his team-mates, Miller insisted that this should be viewed as a point won rather than two dropped, given that the Serbs are seeded above Scotland in the section.

"Everyone seems to be wound up to think that we had to win but they're a good team who weren't going to lie down," he said. "If we win the rest of the games we'll probably win the group so on Tuesday, against Macedonia, we'll be setting out to win. If we're sitting on four points after that, that will be decent."

When asked whether Scotland would need to field two strikers to reach that total, Miller pointed to the manner in which Craig Levein had been "forced down that road before" against Liechtenstein in the European Championship qualifiers. Rhodes, who would stand to benefit from any such tactical alteration, was equally reluctant to be drawn on the matter.

"I'm not sure I'm the man to speak to about the situation regarding qualifying – I'm new to all this, I'm just happy to be here," the Blackburn Rovers striker said, after his nine-minute cameo. "I presume that will be [seen as] a good result against a very tough team, and sets us up nicely going into Tuesday's game."

Another player on a high after his first competitive start was Paul Dixon. Apparently identified as a weak link by the Serbs, who left a tactics sheet on the Hampden turf after their Friday training session detailing their intent to pressure him, the Huddersfield Town left-back earned the man of the match award for a robust and diligent display in defence and attack.

"It's a dream come true to play for my country, and to be man of the match as well," he said. "I don't think it could have gone any better other than maybe getting the win, but it's not a defeat. It's a draw, a point. We made chances, which is something we can take into the next game."

Scotland players are, however, united in seeing a win on Tuesday as vital, writes Richard Winton

Taken from the Herald

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