MUCH was made pre-match of Scotland’s Celtic connection. But instead it was a Derby County double act which propelled Scotland to the cusp of a World Cup play-off place.

Those who questioned the late substitutions of Ikechi Anya and Chris Martin ahead of Callum McGregor and John McGinn, two young men who combined for a total of four goals in Scotland’s game of the day last weekend, got their answer when the little Derby winger scurried clear to play in the low centre which would surely have been converted by Martin had Martin Skrtel not stuck it past his side’s inspired goalkeeper instead. Say what you like about English-based players, but this was a Scottish success story, with the former born in Castlemilk and the latter’s dad hailing from Easterhouse.

“The manager just said to me ‘we need a goal, try and impact on the match, beat your man and get crosses in’,” said Anya. “So, that’s exactly I tried to do – and I’m so glad it worked out. I play with Chris at Derby County and I know his game. But for a winger it’s always about just trying to put the ball into a good area. One of two things can happen – either you score or it’s an own goal because it can be such a hard ball to defend.

“You could see the impact Chris had when he came on," he added. "He hit the bar and then also set up a good chance. He was tremendous when he came on and if he plays on Sunday night then I’m certain he’ll be just as good against Slovenia.”

Anya’s contribution to this priceless goal said it all about the tenacity and enthusiasm which this 29-year-old brings to the national squad. He hasn’t featured in a league match for the mid-table East Midlands SkyBet Championship club since August 12 and hasn’t played any match for them for the best part of a month.

For Scotland fans, he will always be remembered for the bravura goal he stuck past Manuel Neuer and World Champions Germany, but this moment was right up there too. He dedicated the win to his mother Mariena, who hails from Romania, and spends eight hours driving up from her home in Oxford to watch him play for his country.

“From a personal point of view, I always remember scoring against Germany over there,” said Anya. “That was an incredible moment for me. But when I saw the ball go in against Slovakia, and then seeing the whole crowd bouncing up and down to the song [A eulogy to Chris Martin to the theme of Freed from Desire, by GALA], it was amazing. To know you’ve helped make so many people so happy, well you feel proud.

“My mum was at the game, she always comes up,” he added. “I think my godparents were as well. She makes the trip, she drives up. She texted me at 7.30am this morning to say she’d left at 5.30am, coming from Oxford. It was eight hours in the car for her, but she loves it. The result tonight is for her – it’s always for her. The amount of miles she does to watch me is incredible. She doesn’t like flying.”