Maloney aims to take huge step forward

Scotland's Shaun Maloney

Scotland's Shaun Maloney

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SHAUN Maloney admits Friday night’s clash against Ireland presents the perfect opportunity for Scotland to take a massive step towards qualifying for the European Championships.

The Scots entertain the Irish at Celtic Park with all to play for in Group D.

Maloney and co will be boosted by a superb point against Poland last time out, while the Irish grabbed a last-gasp draw with world champions Germany in their most recent outing.

Maloney still expects the Germans to go on and win the group, but he insists second spot is up for grabs.

And three points on Friday against one of their biggest rivals would be a massive confidence-booster for the rest of the campaign.

“We still assume Germany will be the most dominant side in the group, given how they performed over the summer at the World Cup,” the Latics forward (below) said.

“But the three teams after that, there’s so little between them, and maybe even Georgia are also in contention.

“It’s by far the hardest group, and Friday’s game will be hugely important to our hopes of qualifying.”

Had Scotland held on for the last 14 minutes in Poland, they would be coming in to Friday’s game in second place, just a point behind leaders Ireland. However, Maloney – who scored Scotland’s first goal in Warsaw – feels it was still a good point to build on.

“I think if we look back on it now, particularly the last 10 minutes, we’re pretty pleased with it,” Maloney added.

“Having gone 2-1 ahead you obviously want to see it out. But they are a very good side – you saw that when they beat Germany – and we were all pleased with the performance.”

l Wigan’s Development Squad yesterday moved into the semi-finals of the Lancashire FA Senior Cup thanks to a 1-0 victory over Bolton.

Jordan Flores scored the only goal 20 minutes from time for Joe Parkinson’s men, who overcame the sending-off of Joey Johnson to hang in for the win with Lee Nicholls keeping a clean sheet.

l Sam Cosgrove scored four goals as Wigan’s Under-18 side hammered Fleetwood Town 5-0.

Alex Cvetkovic got the other goal for Peter Atherton’s charges, who climb up to second in the league table behind Rochdale.