Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Euro 2016
qualification clash between Scotland
and Gibraltar at Hampden Park.
The Tartan Army are currently locked on points with Republic of Ireland and world champions Germany in Group D, as the race to reach France hits its midway point this evening. Gibraltar are still yet to get off the mark in what is their first campaign as a UEFA-affiliated member, losing all four competitive games so far and conceding 21 goals in the process.
Kickoff in Glasgow is less than an hour away, so let's get straight into things by taking a look at some team news...
SCOTLAND TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Marshall, Hutton, Robertson, Ritchie, Martin, Maloney, Morrison, Brown, S.Fletcher, Naismith, Anya
SUBS: Gordon, Russell, Greer, Bannan, McArthur, May, Rhodes, D.Fletcher, Forsyth, McGregor, Berra, Forrest
Starting with the home side, then, and Gordon Strachan
has opted to make six changes to his side for this afternoon's clash. Interestingly, the Tartan Army boss appears to be going with a 3-5-2 formation, swaying away from his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 set-up, as he looks to experiment ahead of tougher games to come. Steven Naismith
and Stephen Fletcher are tasked with leading the line, while Ikechi Anya and Andrew Robertson will provide plenty of width from their wing-back positions.
Strachan had a couple of big decisions to make; the first regarding who he would select in goals, and the winner in that particular battle is Cardiff City's David Marshall. Craig Gordon and Allan McGregor both have to settle for a place among the substitutes, while Scott Brown has been handed the captain's armband for this evening's match. The experienced midfielder shared that honour with Darren Fletcher in the recent victory over Northern Ireland, but the West Bromwich Albion midfielder starts this one on the bench.
Elsewhere, Jordan Rhodes also has to make do with a place among the back-ups, despite being tipped with a starting spot in attack. It's been 18 months since his last appearance in a competitive game for Scotland, but that wait will surely come to an end at some point today. Another championship star in the shape of Matt Ritchie is handed a second cap for his country, meanwhile, being fielded in a midfield position in a side which contains just one out-and-out defender.
GIBRALTAR TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Robba; Wiseman, J Chipolina, Artell, R Casciaro; R Chipolina, Payas, Walker; Bardon, L Casciaro, Priestley
As far as the visiting side are concerned, they have included three UK-based players in their starting lineup. David Artell, Adam Preistly and experienced defender Scott Wiseman have all been selected, although another of those who plies his trade south of the border, Bristol Rovers winger Jake Gosling, misses out.
Incidentally, Gibraltar will be lead out by caretaker boss David Wilson
for the first time this evening; a Glasgow-born citizen who has revealed that he intends to sing along to both national anthems pre-match. All his attention will be very much on helping The Rock claim their first competitive win, though, with goalkeeper Jamie Robba likely to be kept busy for the full 90 minutes.
Kickoff at Hampden Park is now around 40 minutes away:
Well we have already witnessed England and Wales take a big leap towards qualifying for France 2016 this weekend, and now it is the turn of fellow home nations Scotland and Northern Ireland. Following the latest round of fixtures, which will conclude later this evening, we will officially be at the halfway stage. The picture is still not yet clear in Group D, and it is not likely to be until the final round of games in seven months' time. Until then, teams across Europe must simply continue to pick up as many points as possible.
Of course, the expanded finals next year ensures that, as well as the top two teams qualifying automatically, the best placed sides who finish in third will also enter a playoff. When you are pitted in a group with world champions Germany, statistically the best side in Europe when it comes to qualifying, then the additional two spots to battle for really opens things up. As things stand, Scotland are level on points with Germany and Republic of Ireland, while Poland surprisingly top the group having made an unbeaten start to their campaign.
With Ireland and Poland facing off later today, three points for Scotland against minnows Gibraltar will allow them to stake a claim inside the top two if they can add to their goal difference. With the utmost respect to The Rock, more established sides such as the Tartan Army must target this fixture as a chance to add goals to their tally, as well as all three points. Strachan may have warned supporters that goals are not guaranteed, but you would expect the Scots to bag a few today.
Sticking with Scotland, it has been a decent campaign to date which almost started off in the perfect fashion away at Germany. Anya gave the travelling Tartan Army supporters a chance to believe inside the Westfalenstadion when he levelled things up in the second half, but the World Cup holders showed their strength to claim maximum points. Then came a customary victory over Georgia, before a well-earned draw at Poland which could prove decisive come the totting up process.
It was the victory over Ireland last time out, though, which has really given Scotland supporters belief that they can finish inside the top two spots. Strachan's men have still got to travel over to Dublin later in the campaign, of course, and having seen the Irish claim a dramatic draw in Germany then they may have to match their October win if they are to pip them to an automatic playoff spot. That is all assuming that Poland slip away, which at this stage is looking unlikely. There is a long, long way to go yet, mind, so at this stage it is just a case of picking up as many positive results as possible.
Scotland have managed to keep a clean sheet in their last three games at home; a record which is likely to be extended at the end of this evening's encounter. That record stretches back way back to September 2013; four hours and 31 minutes of playing time in total since Kevin Mirallas last breached the hosts' net at Hampden Park.
DID YOU KNOW? On top of that impressive defensive record in front of their home supporters, Scotland have won five of their last eight competitive games overall. Prior to that, it was no win in seven, which just goes to show what a terrific job Strachan has done since coming in.
Both sets of players are now going through their pre-match warm-ups, with kickoff fast approaching in Glasgow:
PREVIOUS MEETINGS: With this being just Gibraltar's 10th game since becoming a UEFA-affiliated member, they don't boast all that much history. Understandable, then, that this will be the first ever meeting between the two sides. The Rock have not even got a recognised home ground yet, playing their home games instead over in the Algarve, although they are expected to have some 430 away fans at Hampden Park this evening.
As well as failing to get off the mark this campaign, Gibraltar also hold claim to having the worst defensive record in Europe, the third lowest average possession rate and also the third lowest shot count. They should not be written off completely with a number of Football League players among their ranks, but at this stage it really is a case of keeping the scoreline down to a respectable level against their more experienced opponents.
That said, Gibraltar have certainly improved over time. Successive seven-goal defeats against Poland and Republic of Ireland saw them kick things off in an embarrassing manner, although they restricted Georgia to just three goals and Germany to four. That 4-0 reverse in Nuremberg really was quite remarkable, with the efficient Germans expected to reach something close to double figures, but they showed great determination in the second half to restrict the world champs.
Something similar will be required at Hampden Park if they are to pull off one of the great all-time shocks, but Scotland are set up to score goals this evening and they will not stop at one or two. On a side note, home supporters were left a little aggrieved at having to fork out as much as £48 for a ticket for this game, meaning that this famous old ground will be far from full. That really could work in the visiting side's favour.
PREDICTION: Scotland are finally back at Hampden Park following a spell away, and you would bet everything you own on them prevailing with ease this evening. Gibraltar did restrict Germany to just the four goals last time out, but as witnessed at the Aviva Stadium last year, they are there for the taking should their heads drop at any stage. I'll go with a 6-0 home win.
The anthems have been sung with plenty of gusto, and both sets of players are now ready to get things underway at Hampden Park. Here we go...
KICKOFF! Gibraltar get us underway in Glasgow and immediately they get into a little bit of a mix-up at the back, but there is no danger on this occasion.
SAVE! First attempt on goal from Scotland comes with a little under three minutes on the clock, as Robertson swings in a delightful ball for Fletcher to head on, but he was too far out to get enough power on the ball to beat Robba.
Elsewhere in Group D, Georgia and Germany are also battling it out, while Republic of Ireland face Poland later this evening. Updates from the first of those games will be provided throughout, as Scotland continue to knock the ball around at Hampden.
A pass back to Robba is played very short, but Naismith couldn't quite latch on to it. The Gibraltar keeper was at fault moments later as his attempted clearance bobbled over his foot and out for corner. Scotland couldn't capitalise on the set piece, though, meaning that we remain all-square.
SAVE! WOW! What a moment that would have been, as a shot-cross from the left by Chipolina is palmed away from goal by Marshall, who was so very nearly caught out. Prior to that Priestly found some space inside the box, but he couldn't get quite a shot away at goal.
Gibraltar are enjoying a really good spell here, winning a free kick on the left which is swung in superbly by Walker. It is cleared away at the front post, but the visitors will take great confidence from what has been a fine few minutes for them.
Gibraltar are battling away in defence, stopping the Tartan Army from getting a hold of the ball in advanced areas. Some space was finally worked out wide with Anya laying off Robertson, yet his cross was sliced over the bar.
Walker, who is probably the best footballer in this Gibraltar side, drags an effort wide of goal in another warning to Scotland that this is perhaps not going to be all one-way. It must be said, the visitors have been the better side in the opening 14 minutes or so.
SHOT! Ritchie cuts inside from the right and works a shooting position in the box, but his effort was very tame, allowing Robba to collect with ease down low.
Scotland are starting to click into gear now in an attacking sense, but Robertson has once more produced an underwhelming cross into the box. Fletcher kept things alive by retrieving the stray ball, going down inside the box but nothing was given.
PENALTY TO SCOTLAND! A real chance for Scotland to settle some nerves, as this time the referee does point to the spot when Maloney is brought down by Robba. No idea what the keeper was thinking there, with the midfielder going absolutely nowhere.
GOAL! SCOTLAND 1-0 GIBRALTAR (MALONEY, PEN)
GOAL! SCOTLAND 1-1 GIBRALTAR (CASCIARO)
Absolutely incredible! Maloney tucked away the penalty superbly into the bottom corner, and I was just about to say that will surely act as a springboard to push on and bag a few more. But just a minute or so after the restart, Lee Casciaro
was played through on goal, and despite the somewhat tight angle he tucked the ball beyond Marshall fantastically to level up.
SAVE! Fletcher put the ball in the back of the net only to see the flag up for offside on the far side, but it appeared to matter little shortly after when Naismith found himself through, only for his shot to be kept out by Robba. Fletcher and Naismith have linked up well so far, as witnessed with that latest attacking move.
This game hasn't really settled down yet, but what a moment for Gibraltar. Casciaro, who works as a policeman when he's not playing football, is the man who can hold claim to scoring his side's first ever goal as a UEFA-affiliated member. Now can they hold on?
[Insert your own crime-related pun here]
Just a slight sense of restlessness around Hampden Park, and I have to admit I expected it to be as good as game over at this stage.
GOAL! SCOTLAND 2-1 GIBRALTAR (FLETCHER)
A first international goal in some six years for Fletcher, and what a time to get it. I mentioned how the natives were starting to turn ever so slightly against their team, but Fletcher reacted quickest when Anya's cross was not full dealt with, nodding the ball past Robba and into the corner of the net to settle those nerves once again.
We almost had an identical scenario to earlier in the game when Gibrlatar looked to attack straight from the restart, but they couldn't work an opening on this occasion. Scotland look to be a little more comfortable now, but they will need a third sooner rather than later.
PENALTY TO SCOTLAND! Another silly penalty to give away, this time goalscorer Casciaro brings down Naismith who was going nowhere fast with the ball running away from him inside the box.
GOAL! SCOTLAND 3-1 GIBRALTAR (MALONEY, PEN)
Some breathing space for the Tartan Army at long lost. This pen was not quite as accurate as the first, but there was enough power on Maloney's spot kick to guide it beyond the reach of Robba.
OFF THE POST!
Gibraltar are at risk of seriously derailing their hopes of keeping Scotland within their reach here as Fletcher dinks an effort over Robba, only for the ball to clip the post and came back into play. Gordon Strachan
's men looking far more assured now than they did 10 minutes ago.
GOAL! SCOTLAND 4-1 GIBRALTAR (NAISMITH)
A well-worked goal from Scotland, who are now looking very comfortable sitting on a three-goal cushion prior to the interval. Anya did well to remain onside on the left-hand side, and when in space he picked out Naismith - one of a number of options - with the Everton man tucking the ball away with relative ease from a central position.
Ritchie is growing more into the game from his wide-midfield berth, but his cross couldn't quite find the path of Fletcher. Robba instead took claim of the ball to bring an end to another Scotland attack. Can the Tartan Army find a fifth prior to the break?
Anya has had so much joy out on the left so far, tricking his way past opponents at ease, yet on this occasion the final ball was not quite there as Gibraltar cleared behind.
Gibraltar will be hoping for the half-time whistle now having let their heads drop over the past 20 minutes. It looked so good for them when they scored their first ever goal in competitive football, but since then it has been all downhill.
HALF TIME: SCOTLAND 4-1 GIBRALTAR
Scotland have the comfortable lead that they were hoping for heading into half time, then, but the big story of the game so far is the fact that Gibraltar are off the mark in front of goal. Lee Casciaro tucked the ball beyond David Marshall for the minnows' first goal since becoming a competitive UEFA-affiliated member.
That strike came just a minute or so after Shaun Maloney
had converted from the spot, and he scored a second in the same manner soon after for his second of the game. Sandwiched between that Maloney double, Fletcher nodded his side back into the lead, while Naismith rounded off the first-half scoring with a well-taken effort.
They may have one huge positive to take away from their trip to Glasgow, but it must be said Gibraltar have also been the victims of their own downfall. Both penalties could have been avoided, while the defending was also not quite up to scratch for either goal from normal play.
UPDATE: Elsewhere in Group D this evening, Germany lead Georgia 2-0 in Tbilisi, while straight after we finish here attention turns to Republic of Ireland's clash against Poland. Scotland, Germany and Poland are all currently locked on 10 points apiece at the top of the table, while Ireland will join them should they pick up a victory.
Joseph Chipolina celebrates after seeing Lee Casciaro temporarily level things up in Glasgow:
© Getty Images
We're almost set to get back underway at Hampden Park as the two sets of teams re-emerge for the second half, and it must be said these next 45 minutes must simply be about keeping things tight for the visitors. They conceded four in 90 minutes against Germany, but have already shipped the same number in 45 minutes here today.
RESTART! Scotland kick things off in the second half, with news of one half-time change to bring you. Gordon Greer has been introduced in place of Matt Ritchie, as Strachan tweaks his formation a little.
Some positive play from Scotland in the opening stages of this second half, but they haven't been able to test Robba with any sort of shot. Preistly does well to relieve some of the pressure on his side by attacking and winning a throw for his side high up the pitch.
SHOT! Chipolina takes the resulting throw-in which works its way back to him out wide, and without giving it a second thought he unleashes a shot which Marshall has to get down to stop. It was a comfortable save, but a save nonetheless.
Not a great deal of action to write home about over the past few minutes, but Gibraltar have played some decent football. They don't appear to be happy to sit back, instead looking to push on and get themselves back into this game. The atmosphere is very flat at the moment, so Scotland will need to step things up a little.
GIBRALTAR SUB: David Artlell, one of the three UK-based players in the starting lineup, is withdrawn to make way for Jean-Carlos Garcia.
Scotland appeared to be fired up in the opening stages of the half, perhaps looking to strengthen their goal difference, but they have been very underwhelming over the past 10 minutes. There has not been a great deal of note happening down on the field, with Gibraltar soaking everything up with ease at the moment.
Still all very slow from the Tartan Army. You get the impression that Strachan will change things around a little very shortly, because his side are very stagnant at the moment.
The visitors have shown signs that they are beginning to tire, but there is still no sign of movement on the Scotland touchline to take advantage with a pair of fresh legs. Jordan Rhodes will no doubt be eager to make an appearance at some stage.
CHANCE! Scotland's first chance to the half falls to Fletcher, who is unable to tap home Hutton's inch-perfect cross from the right. All he had to do was divert the ball goalwards, but he couldn't quite connect from six yards out.
Rhodes is being readied to come on, with Scotland just awaiting the ball to go out of play before making the change. It will be interesting to see who is replaced here - Naismith, perhaps?
SCOTLAND SUB: Scotland could really do with a spark, and maybe Jordan Rhodes is the man to provide it. He was welcomed back into the international fold for the first time in 18 months on Friday night, and now he gets the chance to impress in a competitive fixture. Naismith, who along with Maloney has been a standout player this evening, is the man to make way.
There is no urgency in Scotland's game whatsoever, although they are in no danger of throwing this one away as Gibraltar are badly struggling when in possession. The Tartan Army will be disappointed if they don't bag a couple more before this one is out.
A worrying moment here with Hutton down in some real pain on the deck. He went down under a heavy challenge, and failed to get back up to his feet immediately.
All appears to be fine and well, Hutton now back on the sidelines waiting to be signalled back on. Chipolina came off second best, and his evening does seem to be over as a result.
Anya gets another fine cross into the front post area, but Rhodes failed to gamble which allowed Robba to collect. This game badly needs some sort of spark, because it has failed to get out of first gear since the restart.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Barry Bannan is being given a 15 minute runout the end of the game here, replacing Anya who has put in a good shift out wide. The Rock also opt to change things up a little, bringing on Jake Gosling for Chipolina.
Scotland still hold a three-goal advantage, but they have failed to get going in this second half:
SHOT! One half of Hampden Park thought Rhodes had added a fifth goal, but he only found the side-netting on the end of Bannan's fine searching pass.
GOAL! SCOTLAND 5-1 GIBRALTAR (FLETCHER)
They have laboured their way through this second period, but Scotland finally have a fifth goal courtesy of Fletcher's headed effort. Rhodes whipped the cross in from the right, and the Sunderland man was never going to miss from a few yards out for just his second goal in since April 2009 at this level.
A number of Gibraltar players are struggling with cramp at the moment, with that fifth goal taking all the steam out of their defensive sails. They can take positives away from this display, but it is going to be maximum points and a goal difference of +4 for Scotland.
GIBRALTAR SUB Bardon is stretchered off the field having suffered what seemed an innocuous challenge at the time. Jean Paul Dearte is on in his place for these closing seven minutes or so.
UPDATE: Germany still lead 2-0 against Georgia, ensuring that if Republic of Ireland pick up maximum points from their meeting with Poland after this game, four teams will be locked on 10 points at the top of Group D. You get the sense that goal difference could very well prove decisive come the end of this campaign.
SAVE! Glorious chance for Scotland to score a sixth, but Robba keeps out Rhodes's stinging effort from around 15 yards out, before Fletcher placed the rebound wide from a tight angle. Had the Sunderland man converted, the flag would have gone up on the far side anyway.
SAVE! Scotland ending the half with a flourish as Bannan's dipping free kick is tipped over by Robba. The visitors looked to hit their opponents on the counter, but their attack broke down rather comically in the final third of the field.
GOAL! SCOTLAND 6-1 GIBRALTAR (FLETCHER)
A beautiful finish from Fletcher to just bend the ball out of the reach of Robba and into the bottom corner, meaning a first Scotland hat-trick since 1969. It's been a long time coming, and that will certainly do Fletcher's confidence no harm for both club and country.
SAVE! The second half finally sparked into life about 10 minutes ago, and since then we have seen plenty of goalmouth action at both ends. Marshall has not had a great deal to do this evening, but he has just been forced into action to push aside Chipolina's long-range drive.
A half-chance for Fletcher to add a fourth goal to his tally for the day, but he fired wide from inside the area after being picked out with a smart ball. Two minutes of added time left to play.
CHANCE! Rhodes really should have added his name to the scoresheet in the dying seconds in Glasgow, but he couldn't get the better of Robba from a few yards out with a somewhat tame shot on the turn.
FULL TIME: SCOTLAND 6-1 GIBRALTAR
It was all very straightforward for Scotland in the end, although there was a brief spell in the first half when that didn't appear to be likely. Casciaro scored Gibraltar's historic first goal as a professional outfit, but from there on in it was all about the hosts. Hat-trick hero Steven Fletcher
in particular will remember this game for a long time, as Scotland climb level with Group D leaders Germany and Poland at the top.
Well that's all from me for this evening, but I'll leave by pointing you in the direction of our live text commentary of the final Group D fixture of the day, as Republic of Ireland tackle Poland in Dublin. Enjoy! Coverage of that one can be found right here