STILL HOLL TO PLAY FOR; Burley Takes It to the Blank

Article excerpt

Byline: GAVIN BERRY

GEORGE BURLEY returned to the scene of his first competitive loss as Scotland gaffer but this time he was smiling in Skopje as his World Cup rivals cut each other's throats.

This stalemate in the Macedonian capital boosts Scotland's chances of clinching that all-important second spot as Burley bids to end the nation's 12-year wait to reach a major tournament.

The City Stadium is now the Philip II Arena but it still holds the same memories for the national team boss and the Tartan Army after a disappointing 1-0 defeat in the opening Group 9 fixture.

However, while Burley was a man in distress in the searing heat of that ill-fated September afternoon, it was a different story this time around.

Pressure The national team boss looked relaxed as he sat in the comfort and cool of the main stand and watched his managerial rivals sweat it out on the touchline.

By the time these teams take to the field for their second round of this month's qualifying double header in midweek, Scotland's hopes could be strengthened even further - not a bad four days for Burley and his players considering his team have not had to kick a ball.

Macedonia face Iceland here in Skopje while Norway make the daunting trip to Rotterdam where they will take on group leaders Holland..

Both are now under pressure to take something from their respective fixtures.

This was Macedonia boss Mirsad Jonuz' first game in charge and the team started just as they did against Scotland under predecessor Srecko Katanec - by flying out of the traps.

But this time they could not grab the breakthrough that proved so costly for Scotland when they took the lead after five minutes and held on for three precious points - still their only win of the campaign so far. …