Gordon Strachan gets off to an excellent start as Scotland beat Estonia

Scotland have suffered far too many false dawns to derive excitement from a narrow friendly win over a country ranked 83rd in the world.

Nonetheless, Gordon Strachan would surely savour victory in this, his first match as the Scotland manager. There was the added satisfaction for Strachan of defensive obduracy from his players, but this was a low-key affair, played in conditions which rendered flowing football impossible.

It won't be lost on Strachan that he has far bigger hurdles and more imposing opponents to come. Still, he can regard this as a positive start in the context of winning any match boosting morale.

This occasion brought Strachan back to where his illustrious playing career began in earnest. Then a flame-headed young winger, Strachan was a key part of the Aberdeen team that conquered so much at home and abroad under the guidance of Alex Ferguson. How long-suffering Scotland supporters would hope for something even remotely resembling that journey under Strachan.

Strachan acknowledged the significance of the north-east in his first set of programme notes. There, he wrote: "It is safe to assume when I first emerged out of the Pittodrie tunnel as an eager 20-year-old that the prospect of striding out as Scotland national coach 35 years later was the farthest thing from my mind." Speaking immediately before the game, he admitted to nervousness.

The most immediate task of Scotland's new coach is to remove his nation from the doldrums of international football. While the visit of Estonia offered an opportunity to boost morale, the World Cup qualifying matches against Wales and Serbia in March offer Strachan his first meaningful chance to prove he can succeed where so many before him have failed.

The Scots opened purposefully here with Chris Burke, making a first appearance for his country in six years, and Shaun Maloney particularly lively. Any Estonian sluggishness would have been perfectly understandable given the quota of their team who are in the midst of winter domestic breaks, but Allan McGregor was forced to save well from Tarmo Kink after 10 minutes.

Scotland's first chance of note fell to Steven Fletcher. After fine wing play from Burke, the Sunderland striker headed narrowly over. Such wastefulness, from a number of players, has been a recurring and ominous aspect of recent Scottish international displays.

Maloney was the next to try his luck, with the Wigan man's long-range shot beaten away by Sergei Pareiko. It would be a gross exaggeration to suggest Scotland were dominant, though, with McGregor producing another impressive save to deny Kink before the interval.

By that point a training ground set-play had sent Scotland in front. Charlie Adam's low free-kick deceived the Estonia defence, with Charlie Mulgrew smartly peeling off to supply a low, left-foot finish.

Maloney and Burke, hitherto Scotland's most effective creative forces, were withdrawn at the interval. Strachan could legitimately point to having seen sufficient promise from the duo to spare them another 45 minutes. Intriguingly, Strachan left his goalkeeper and back four untouched throughout proceedings. It was in that area that the 55-year-old's immediate predecessor, Craig Levein, toiled for continuity.

The introduction of Jordan Rhodes allowed fans a view of something they have audibly craved; the Blackburn Rovers player in a strike partnership with Fletcher. It proved a short-lived experiment, as Kenny Miller replaced Fletcher after 67 minutes.

Long before then, the game had regressed into a dour war of attrition. The dreadful Pittodrie playing surface had a meaningful part to play in that, as had Estonia's combative approach. In a competitive environment, the visitors' fouling would have been more sternly dealt with.

Steven Naismith and Mulgrew came close to extending the Scottish lead but the second period continued to lack spark. The raft of substitutions, as so often in friendly internationals, led to much untidiness. Rhodes spurned a late chance to further enhance his rising status, after failing to properly control a Miller cut-back. Strachan, and his country, would far prefer Scotland saved their more potent touch for when it really matters, in any case. Wales and Serbia now lie in wait.

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