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By ESPN Staff

Winner was dream come true - Beattie

Craig Beattie achieved his ambition of hitting a crucial goal for Scotland as his late winner against Georgia strengthened the team's position at the top of their Euro 2008 qualifying group.

The Celtic striker revealed he was challenged to be the 'hero' when he came off the bench late in the Hampden Park match.

And Beattie's 89th-minute close-range finish secured a valuable three points from a match Scotland mostly laboured through. They face Italy next, on Wednesday in Bari.

'Everyone kid when they're young wants to play for their country, and I've definitely fulfilled a dream of mine by scoring at Hampden in a vital match for us,' Beattie said.

He smashed the ball home to justify McLeish's decision to bring him on in place of Kris Boyd, who had headed Scotland's opener.

The advice from McLeish, according to Beattie, was 'just a couple of tactical things, and go and work hard and make yourself a hero.'

Beattie added: 'We had a few chances and knew if we persevered we could get a half chance again.

'To win this match puts us on a right high going over to Italy

'We've got an attitude where we never want to lose any matches. It was vital today and it'll be the same on Wednesday.'

Head coach Alex McLeish was evidently thrilled by the victory in his first match in charge, having replaced Walter Smith in January.

But he also sounded a cautious note.

'We have to keep our feet on the ground, without doubt, and I've told the players that,' said McLeish.

'We've got to take each game as it comes. We've got a really difficult one in Bari now. If we take something from that one we're in a magnificent position.

'Right now there are too many games to go to be presumptuous about anything.'

The former Rangers manager told Sky Sports 3: 'It was quite a day.

'I was really excited by the welcome from the fans when we came out of the tunnel. It was like a cup final.

'It's different being the manager of the Scotland team than playing for them, and that was one of the greatest feelings of my life.'

Beattie is a player McLeish has repeatedly praised over recent weeks, and his faith was justified.

'We know we had people of Craig's ilk on the bench with his good pace,' said McLeish. 'He's been a good player for Celtic this season, he impressed me in the (Scotland) B game, he's a willing runner and he's got pace.'

Describing Scotland's work rate as 'fantastic', McLeish also revealed he took Boyd off because he felt the striker was exhausted.

He added: 'He had two chances within about a two-minute period. I thought the chance across the face of goal (from a Gary Naysmith cross), he swung a tired leg at it and if it had been earlier in the game I'm sure he'd have scored that.'

It was a positive experience for McLeish, even if Georgia often looked more comfortable in possession. He has no fear about the team's will to win for him.

'I've just learnt the spirit is alive and kicking,' he said. 'With the change of management you always worry because they had such a great rapport and relationship with Walter Smith which isn't going to be the same.

'I'm pleased overall this week. The response to me Andy Watson and Roy Aitken coming in has been magnificent.'