Mackie's best wishes for Naismith

BY foxsports • November 12, 2011

Mackie was handed a start in the wide left-position recently occupied by Naismith, who suffered cruciate ligament damage two weeks ago, and cut inside brilliantly to slot home Scotland's second goal in a 2-1 victory in Larnaca. Naismith faces a battle to hit peak form and fitness in time for the opening of Scotland's World Cup campaign next September. But, having just returned from a nine-month lay-off from a broken leg in recent weeks, Mackie is not looking to take Naismith's place - he just wants his team-mate back in the fold. "I'm gutted for Naisy, he's a great lad," Mackie said. "I was in the squad with him the first time I was here and I really liked him. "I've been there with a bad injury and I wish him all the best. "More so than me doing well, I hope he comes back nice and strong because it's horrible when you get a bad injury. "I'm sure he'll be back and I can't wait for him to be back in the squad because the more quality we have the better." Mackie suffered his injury in an FA Cup tie against Blackburn in early January having propelled his career up several levels in the first half of the season. The former Plymouth player hit a goal spree in the first few months of his Loftus Road career, which saw him win a Scotland call-up. Mackie then scored his first goal for Scotland against the Faroe Islands - but he had to wait a year for his fourth cap. "It (the injury) was just a nightmare, it was terrible timing," said the 26-year-old, who has made five Barclays Premier League appearances since his return. "I was doing really well for my club, going for promotion and really frustrating missing the qualifiers. "I had just become a regular part of the squad so I was gutted. But that's in the past, I put in a lot of hard work to get myself back at this level. "Now I feel I'm back and have a bit more experience." The contribution of Mackie delighted Scotland manager Craig Levein, who is looking to bolster the strength in depth of his squad during a total of four friendlies before the World Cup campaign begins. Scotland were without a number of regular starters other than Naismith, including Alan Hutton, Charlie Adam, Scott Brown, Barry Bannan and James McFadden. "We just have to get better overall," said Levein when asked what improvements he was looking for. "We have to create a bigger pool of players so that if we get injuries and such like during the World Cup we are able to replace people with a similar standard of players. "We lost Steven Naismith unfortunately and Jamie Mackie comes in and for me he did a very good job of trying to get close to the standards that Steven set. "We need to build a strong pool, to get together often enough to work on things. If we can keep winning it is a very good habit to be in." Naismith has been crucial in linking up with Scotland's lone striker but all four midfielders ahead of anchor man Darren Fletcher got into some advanced positions throughout last night's game. Although Scotland struggled to get a grip of the game until Kenny Miller's dipping volley opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, their early problems were caused by slackness further back. James Morrison, who enjoyed another run in central midfield, believes learning how to support the lone striker is the key to Scotland's progress. "If we don't it sort of kills the flow of our game, really," the West Brom player said. "With that formation the midfielders have to support or Kenny is isolated. But the wide players supported well. "We could do better in that aspect but we're still learning. It's a bit of a new team but we're coming together and we can only do better." Scotland conceded three minutes after Mackie's 56th-minute goal when Dimitris Christofi clinically punished a lapse of concentration from Phil Bardsley, but they comfortably held on for their seventh win in 11 internationals. "I think we made it hard for ourselves in the later stages of the game," Morrison said. "We should have killed it off really. It was a bit of a sloppy goal after scoring. "But overall it was another victory and a couple of good goals." Morrison admitted they had made a slow start to the game. "It's difficult to break teams down," he said. "It's quite different and a bit of a surprise for us to try and break teams down because we're not really used to it. "But when we got that goal I thought we carved them open a little bit and it was a shame we couldn't have got more goals. "The main thing is to keep winning, it gives you confidence. "We have beaten some good teams and the lads are buzzing and playing well together."

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