Hopkin Grin a Tonic for Strike Rate; BRIAN SCOTT on a Player Getting His Teeth into Scoring for Scotland

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Byline: BRIAN SCOTT

DENTISTS would have been queueing outside David Hopkin's front door yesterday after seeing him celebrate his first international goals in the 4-1 win over Belarus.

But the unmistakable message for Craig Brown from Sunday's World Cup qualifying tie at Pittodrie is that the man with the toothless grin could be the very one to put much-needed bite into Scotland's attack.

Brown, like his predecessor Andy Roxburgh, has never been so well off for strikers that he couldn't use a scoring midfield player to press up in support of them.

Ian Durrant promised to oblige before his international career petered out all too early as a result of injury and John Collins actually has done so on notable occasions.

What they really needed, though, and might just have found in Hopkin, is the additional goal-threat that, say, successive England managers have derived from David Platt being at their disposal.

'We don't have enough scoring midfielders,' Brown conceded as he reflected on the win which, courtesy of Hopkin and Kevin Gallacher who got two goals each, kept the Scots on course for a playoff place, at least. They should have a much clearer idea of what is to be their fate after Belarus play Austria in Minsk tomorrow. But more of that later.

'Gary McAllister is more the creative type and has got only five goals in his 54 internationals,' Brown went on. 'John Collins admittedly has scored a few nine in 44 games - whereas Paul Lambert is an anchor man who tends not to score.

'So it's very encouraging from that point of view to see a guy like David Hopkin come in and pick up a couple of goals in only his third appearance for us.' Hopkin's contribution to Scotland's cause of getting to France next summer was all the more encouraging given the first reports which Brown is understood to have received about him last season.

These suggested that, good and strong player though he appeared to be with Crystal Palace, he was perhaps no better than the midfield players already available to Scotland. But such an appraisal of the onetime Morton player's talents took no account of what should have been obvious even to the untutored eye: he scores quite regularly and sometimes stylishly.

Even Gallacher, who has claimed five goals in his last four internationals, would have been delighted to claim a goal so sweet as Hopkin's second against the Belarussians.

The new captain of Leeds United drifted past one man and sent another the wrong way before dragging the ball round him and scoring right-footed with a precise, low shot. …