STEVE Clarke, somewhat self-consciously, waved to jubilant Scotland supporters towards the end of his side’s 2-0 victory over Moldova on Friday night as a Qatar 2022 play-off spot being secured.

But the national team manager is reluctant to join the Tartan Army, who had encouraged him to make the gesture, in full blown celebrations until a place at the tournament proper is in the bag.

Even if Andy Robertson and his team mates overcome Denmark in their final Group F match at Hampden tomorrow evening and clinch a seeding for the play-offs in March, and a home game in the semi-final, he will still be subdued.

“We want to finish well,” said Clarke. “It will be a full house at Hampden. We want to finish the campaign well. If we can get one point or three points on Monday it should secure a seeding.

“We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves on the flight back from Moldova – without alcohol this time! But we will get ourselves ready for Monday. We will enjoy the fact we have had a good campaign up to now and we want to finish it.

“No, job done is to qualify for Qatar. We probably need something from the game on Monday to be seeded, but even without something on Monday night we have to win two more matches.

“When you think at the start of the campaign we were 10 or 12 matches away from Qatar, we are now two matches away from Qatar. We are getting closer.” 

Clarke added: “We take the camp as a whole. We are not going to celebrate getting to a play-off.

 “It is a measure of the improvement in the team and the squad. But we want to go to Qatar. When we get to March we will save the celebrations for then hopefully.”

Scotland fans in the Zimbru Stadium on Friday night asked Clarke to acknowledge their presence and he did so, but he would rather, despite his gratitude for their vocal backing, party when they get to Qatar.

“I get nervous when I do that,” he said. “I did it once as a younger manager somewhere, I can’t remember where. And we conceded a goal straightaway!

“So I always get nervous doing that. I would ask the Tartan Army if they want a wave, can they wait until after the game, because I do get nervous. I actually turned to the bench.”

His reluctance to give the Tartan Army the wave they craved, though, does not mean Clarke is unappreciative of the remarkable lengths the fans go to cheer on his men. 

“I spoke to one boy on Friday night and he had jumped on a plane 22 hours earlier in America to come and watch the game,” he said. 

“That’s 22 hours traveling. To be honest, he looked as fresh as a coat of pain. I would have been dead after that. So that’s a measure of the guys that want to be here. Thankfully we gave them a good night and they can enjoy themselves.” 

Meanwhile, Clarke has attributed the slow start that Nathan Patterson made in Scotland’s match against Moldova on Friday night to his lack of game time at Rangers this season.

Right wing back Patterson scored his first international goal in the first-half of the Qatar 2022 qualifier in Chisinau and then set up his team mate Che Adams for his strike in the second-half.

The 20-year-old has been lauded or his match-winning display by his team mates and manager for his display – but Clarke feels the youngster can improve further with experience.  

”I thought he started a little bit slow to be honest,” he said. “But he is not playing enough football as a young player developing, and this is not a criticism of anyone, he is not getting enough minutes on the pitch.

“It took him a little time to find his feet in the game, but once he did, he played all right, didn’t he?”

Clarke has been pleased with how Scotland responded to their defeat to Denmark in Copenhagen back in September – they have gone on a five game winning run for the first time since 1995 - and is hopeful they can avenge that painful 2-0 reverse on Monday night.

“There was no doom in our camp,” he said. “It was a tough game against the Danes. I have watched it back, obviously we play them next. I have watched it back a few times.

“They had their periods in the game where they had us under the cosh. There were also periods in the game where we were decent. We look forward to the match on Monday night and the chance to finish the group on a high as well.”