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Scotland's missed chances sum up George Burley's tenure

A night of missed chances and defensive errors was typical of George Burley's luckless reign as Scotland manager

Scotland had been set up for gallant failure from seven minutes before the interval. Debate will rage over the coming weeks and months over whether Kenny Miller was guilty of unacceptable profligacy as he found Michel Vorm's diving body from all of six yards, or if in fact the Holland goalkeeper pulled off a wonder save.

Amid a rousing opening half, one of the best Scotland as a whole let alone Hampden Park has witnessed in many a year, the hosts had failed to press home their advantage by taking the lead.

Nobody will be more aware than Miller himself that it may be him, and not David Weir, who will be labelled his team's fall guy. Holland's winning goal, clinically despatched by Eljero Elia, in a sense summed up George Burley's Scotland tenure as Weir blundered when attempting to head clear.

The plain facts will be sufficient to cost Burley his job. He has failed to guide Scotland to second place in Group Nine, as was his remit, albeit he has been beset by the kind of nonsense he must have asked himself what he did to deserve. Miller's inability to convert the kind of chance any top class striker should thrive on is only part of a weary story.

It is hardly Burley's fault, after all, that one player takes the huff because he is not considered a first choice for his country and another two indulge in madness in a hotel bar and on a substitutes' bench. Those who argue this is all related to the fact Burley lacks presence should consider the troubles Jock Stein endured with errant players.

Commercially, this match was a godsend for the Scottish Football Association. In purely football terms, needing to beat the third best team in the world to ensure that play-off spot was nothing short of disastrous.

Scotland actually played better here than against France twice in their last European Championship campaign – they won both matches yet it matters not. The hunt is virtually already underway for Burley's successor.

The build-up to Saturday's visit of Macedonia and this encounter with the Dutch could be construed as odd in the sense that there seemed a basic acceptance, inevitability even, that Burley would depart office in their immediate aftermath. It was, of course, perfectly plausible that Scotland would beat Macedonia – as indeed they did – and enter tonight's clash with more than a faint hope of progression to the play-offs.

Burley cannot be accused of going out without a fight. From half-time on Saturday, the Scots started to resemble a decent team again. A football nation had issued a collective sigh with the news that Craig Gordon was not deemed fit enough to face Holland and took a sharp intake of breath as it was confirmed Steven Naismith was to be handed his first start in international football.

Within 45 minutes, Marshall had superbly defied Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben while Naismith was handing Giovanni van Bronckhorst a more uncomfortable night than he could reasonably have anticipated. Marshall's block from Robben again, this time in the 63rd minute with the pair one-on-one was Gordon-esque in its brilliance.

Scotland's three-man midfield became a five when defending, a smart tactic against Bert van Marwijk's marauding wingers. Yet the underlying problem with Burley's team has been a lack of goalscoring prowess.

Scott Brown – who to be fair had made a superb run to get to Alan Hutton's cross in the first place – prodded wide when it seemed easier to hit the target before Miller's momentary date with destiny.

An explosive atmosphere had been fuelled in part by the sort of needle which lights up games. Darren Fletcher and Robin van Persie clashed physically and vocally – needless to say club agendas were briefly prevalent in that case – while Brown and Paul Hartley used every opportunity to test the supposedly dodgy temperament of those who don orange. Dirk Kuyt was to be the Tartan Army's villain of the piece, booked for a blatant dive inside the home penalty area just after the hour mark.

There could be little argument about Miller's 70th-minute attempt at goal, the victim of basic bad luck. Vorm let the half-volley slip through his arms only for the ball to slide agonisingly and narrowly wide of the Holland goal. Burley, for whom fate has hardly been a friend of late, was left looking to the skies for the final time.

The substitutions highlighted the size of Burley's task here. As Holland called for AC Milan's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in an attempt to snatch the points, Scotland introduced Derby County's Kris Commons. It is no disrespect to Commons but those consecutive moves supplied tacit admission of the challenge Scotland had left themselves.

Elia was the replacement to make the difference, Weir's error the latest cruel twist of fate after the veteran's own imperious showing. While the 39-year-old only may now bow out of the international scene, there is no such dubiety about the future of the Scotland manager.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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