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‘CRAIG WILL BE WORLD CUP KEY MAN,’ INSISTS SCOTS STAR

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CELTIC keeper Craig Gordon could be Scotland’s x-factor as they prepare for their World Cup double-header – that’s the verdict from team-mate Steven Whittaker.

Gordon Strachan’s men take on Slovakia at Hampden tomorrow night and travel to Slovenia on Sunday for their final qualifier.

Two wins could gain the Scots a play-off place in the race for Russia next summer.

And Hibs defender Whittaker reckons his former Hearts foe is in in the form of his life at the age of 34.

Gordon will pick up his 50th cap at the national stadium and the full-back insisted: “Without a doubt, he can make a big difference.

“Everyone is important in their own right. You all have a job to do and when that last line is breached you have to rely on your goalkeeper and Craig has come up with the goods on numerous occasions.

“Goalies tend to go on a bit longer, they don’t have to run around so much, but he’s shown his level of consistency and performance is still up there and I’m sure he will continue for some time yet.”

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In Saturday’s 2-2 draw between the Hoops and Neil Lennon’s Easter Road outfit at Parkhead, Whittaker believed he had scored from pointblank range.

However, he was foiled by a remarkable reaction save from the shotstoppeer who threw himself full-length across his line to claw the ball to safety from virtually under the crossbar.

It’s that sort of save that gives Whittaker great hope in Scotland’s bid to reach the elite next year. He added: “The ball came to me fast, but I thought I had scored. I was practically away celebrating!

“I connected with it well, I didn’t even see Craig. I thought I had scored, it had come to me and I’t turned it goalwards.

“In hindsight, I think I am only three yards out, I’ve watched it back and I still don’t know how I didn’t score. He’s come from nowhere, he had no right to get there.

“It would have been a nice moment to score and put my team 2-1 up, but it was a great save.

“Craig has made some fantastic saves over the years for both club and country.

“I’ve had a chat with him. I asked him after the game how he had saved that and he said he didn’t even know it was me. But he told me he just had to get across to it and managed to get a hand to the ball.

“Saves like that can win games as much as strikers scoring.”

NEW CQN PODCAST FROM CELTIC PARK ON SATURDAY

Kevin Graham is back with a new CQN Podcast from Saturday. He talks to supporters on the bus on the way to Parkhead, interviews John Paul Taylor outside the ground and captures the atmosphere and action inside the ground before getting some more supporters’ views on the bus home after an eventful afternoon at Celtic Park.

Apologies for a few sweary words in this podcast near the end.

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