SCOTLAND’S encounter with the Faroe Islands in Torshavn on Tuesday night put Steve Clarke through the emotional wringer and then some.

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon prevented the national team from falling behind in the first-half of the Qatar 2022 qualifier with a superb instinctive save as the minnows, who are languishing in 114th place in the current FIFA World Rankings, dominated.

And when the out-of-sorts visitors finally managed to take control of proceedings after half-time they promptly passed up a raft of gilt-edged scoring opportunities on the sodden artificial surface.

It took a fortuitous 86th minute goal from that man Lyndon Dykes – which was only allowed to stand after a lengthy VAR check – to avoid a humiliating and hugely costly draw in the North Atlantic.

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Clarke, whose men now need to beat Moldova away next month to secure second spot in Group F and book a place in the play-offs next March, must have felt like lying in a darkened room for a few days after it was all over.

Or joining the Tartan Army footsoldiers who had made the long journey to the remote archipelago for a few double whiskies in the local hostelries.

But the Scotland manager is now facing several weeks of stress and anxiety deciding who to play up front in Chisinau after both Ryan Christie and Dykes, who formed his forward line in Torsvollur, picked up bookings and one match suspensions.

He will hope that Che Adams, the Southampton striker who suffered a minor injury in the 3-2 triumph over Israel at Hampden on Saturday, is fit again and available for selection. But who does he pick alongside Adams?

Kevin Nisbet, the Hibernian striker who came on against the Faroes late on, is the front runner. Ryan Fraser, the Newcastle United player who was deployed at right wing back, is a proven performer at international level and is another option.

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But the height and physicality of Dykes, who stands 6ft 2in in his Nike Tiempo Legend 9 cleats, has given Scotland an invaluable out ball in their rollercoaster campaign and neither Nisbet nor Fraser possess those qualities. 

So does Clarke look elsewhere? Oliver McBurnie of Sheffield United of even Tony Watt of Motherwell are big units who would allow him to retain the 3-4-1-2 formation and tactics which have worked so well in the past.

There is certainly much for the man in charge to ponder before the Moldova match. Here we look over the contenders for Chisinau. 

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The Hibernian man is the obvious choice to fill the slot vacated by Dykes. Nisbet came on in all three of Scotland’s group games in the Euro 2020 finals this summer and has been involved in three of the national team’s five Qatar 2022 qualifiers since. The 24-year-old has only scored once in his nine appearances for his country and that strike came in the friendly against the Netherlands in Portugal in June. He failed to impress greatly after being handed a start against Moldova last month. But his game time has been limited. Clarke is an admirer and knows what he brings to the team. 

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The Newcastle United winger has been a brilliant performer for Scotland in the past. He scored in three consecutive appearances against the Czech Republic, Israel and the Faroes last season. If deployed in the correct position in a system that suits him he could provide a vital cutting edge against Moldova. But the 5ft 4in forward struggled in attack alongside Adams in Denmark. He has, too, not been featuring regularly for his club.

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The 25-year-old has failed to score once in the 16 matches he has played for Scotland since making his debut under Clarke’s predecessor Alex McLeish in 2018. He only netted one goal for Sheffield United last season as the Bramall Lane club were relegated from the Premier League. But can this country really ignore a 6ft 2in striker who commanded a £20m transfer fee two years ago? He was on target in a Carabao Cup game against Southampton last month. He would certainly put in a shift and stretch the game. His work rate has never been lacking whenever he has been called upon.     

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The 26-year-old is still waiting to open his account for Beerschot, the Belgian club he joined back in August in a move that could bank Dundee United in the region of £1m. However, he is playing at a decent level and has shown he can handle the step up to international football. He made his debut in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Russia in Moscow in 2019 and acquitted himself well. He has netted once, against San Marino at Hampden two years ago, in four appearances. If he finds form in the coming weeks then he could give Clarke food for thought. He is an old-fashioned forward who is at his best playing between the posts in the opposition penalty box. But he can be a prolific scorer when he is on top of his game.

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Well, why not? The former Celtic forward has only represented his country once before, in a friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague in 2016. But Motherwell manager Graham Alexander, somebody who knows a thing or two about international football, believes the striker is more than capable of forcing his way into the national set-up. The 27-year-old has been on target five times in 13 games for the Fir Park club this term. He is powerful and when he is in the mood he can be difficult for rival teams to contain. His lack of international experience, though, make his involvement in such a big game unlikely.