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Scots hopeful on McManus as Burley mulls keeper

Scotland boss George Burley will make last-minute decisions on whether to draft Celtic captain Stephen McManus and Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon into his starting XI for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Iceland.

McManus missed the 3-0 defeat by Holland in Amsterdam on Saturday with an ankle injury and his absence from his usual centreback slot was felt as the Dutch scored their first two goals from crosses.

Those goals also put the spotlight on Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor’s performance and increased the chances of a recall for Gordon, who had been Scotland’s first choice until last week.

Burley said he could not be sure that McManus would be ready to come in for Wolves defender Christophe Berra.

“Stephen’s trained for the last two days,” the manager reported. “He had a slight reaction after yesterday but he’s trained again today and he’s a lot happier with it.”

The manager added: “Christophe Berra did very well in Amsterdam, but Stephen’s a great competitor, experienced at international level, so I’ll be speaking to him and then deciding tomorrow.”

Burley refused to be drawn on his goalkeeping dilemma. “I’ve got to make decisions about every position in the team and that will be told to the players tomorrow.”

Tottenham right-back Alan Hutton, who came off the bench in Amsterdam, is certain to start his first match for either club or country in five months after Burnley defender Graham Alexander was ruled out with a hamstring problem.

“I said before the Dutch game I was surprised how Alan’s fitness levels had come on,” Burley said. “But he has done a lot of work, he’s trained well and came on and did well against Holland, so he’s into consideration.

“Unfortunately, Graham Alexander was feeling his hamstring today, so I think we can rule him out for tomorrow’s game.”

With Holland running away with group nine, Scotland are involved in a four-way battle with Iceland, Norway and Macedonia for second place and the chance to qualify for the finals in South Africa next year via the play-offs.

Burley’s side have already beaten the Icelanders away.

Tue 31 March, 2009
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