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Pressure on Strachan to deliver

| 26.03.2017

Scotland need a home win

Scotland face a must win on Sunday when hosting Slovenia at Hampden in front of the watching Sky Sports cameras. So far it has been another shambolic qualifying campaign for the Scots and they go into game five with only Malta beneath them in Group F.

Gordon Strachan’s side have been booted from pillar to post by the media, fans and some ex-players in the run-up. The famous Tartan Army loyalty appears to be wearing thin too as football fans north of the border watch the rest of the home nations progress, while they seem to go backwards. Some reports even suggest the former Celtic manager is past it.

The hosts rattled off another poor display when drawing at Easter Road with Canada on Wednesday. Despite having a 100 per cent lose rate against their opponents, Scottish Championship player Fraser Aird broke the deadlock when putting Canada ahead with just 11-minutes on the clock. It took a Steven Naismith equaliser before the break to spare their blushes. Fans weren’t happy, and assistant manager Mark McGhee told the media they have every right to boo if the team plays rubbish.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Scotland v Poland - Hampden Park

Slovenia not as fierce as stats suggest

On Sunday they face a Slovenia side who are second in the table behind England, and unbeaten so far. A run of two wins and two draws will have the locals restless, but a closer look at that form suggests there may not be as much to fear as it appears at first glance. Slovenia have drawn with Lithuania and England, beating Slovakia and, most recently, Malta. The England and Slovakia results are worth something, but edging the minnows of Malta 1-0 is far from convincing.

Those loyal to Scotland can back them to catapult themselves back into the qualification picture with a win at 11/8 right here. The race is sizing up as a bid to finish second behind England, and the home win would certainly give Scotland half a chance. The pressure is on Strachan to deliver – let’s see if he’s still got it.

Kyle Lafferty rediscovered his clinical eye for goal which saw him star in Euro 2016 qualifying. The towering frontman netted twice to help dispatch San Marino 4-0. Northern Ireland also saw goals from Steven Davis and Jamie Ward as they rallied to a comfortable home success.

Norway look there for the taking

Also on Sunday we see Northern Ireland host Norway in Group C. Germany are destined to tie this pile up, as was expected before the off, but the locals enter in second, and have a real chance of boosting their tally by three when hosting a Norway side who have looked desperately out of sorts during this competition.

Lars Lagerback’s men were tipped to be a major player in this pool, but sit second-bottom of the pile, with only San Marino worse off. They have lost three of their four matches to date, with the spare a win over the minnows of San Marino – even there they conceded a goal. Northern Ireland have lost only to Germany so far, and won’t have a better chance to beat Norway. We’re offering 7/5 which, judging by the stats, is a great deal.

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Frank Monkhouse