John McGinn fired his first hat-trick in senior football to wash away some of the recent pain as he inspired Scotland to a six-goal rout over San Marino at a rain-lashed Hampden.
In conditions that became farcical as the ball was held up in puddles of water, Steve Clarke earned only his second win with the 6-0 romp to stop the rot after four defeats on the spin.
The game won’t live long in the memory for the Tartan Army foot soldiers who turned up but the same can’t be said of McGinn or fellow scorers Lawrence Shankland and Stuart Finlday who netted their first international goals.
Aston Villa man McGinn netted three first half goals before Dundee United striker Shankland, making his first Scotland start, and debutant Findlay netted after the restart to become the first Kilmarnock player to score for Scotland since Tommy McLean 50 years ago.
Substitute Stuart Armstrong completed the rout when the Southampton man netted a brilliant free kick with four minutes left on the clock.
The result doesn’t change anything in terms of qualification from Group I with Scotland out of the running but at least helps restore a bit of confidence, albeit the result came against the world’s lowest ranked team who have now lost 34 consecutive games.
The heavens opened over Mount Florida and the miserable weather matched the mood of doom and gloom around the national team after four defeats in a row.
And those who turned up on a rain-lashed Sunday night are the most loyal of Tartan Army foot soldiers with so many fans - understandably at £27 for an adult ticket - choosing to stay away.
At least they would surely witness a first win since the 2-1 victory over Cyprus at Hampden in June against the side propping up the rest of world football in the FIFA rankings.
It was certainly a bright enough start with Scott McTominay heading wide of target from James Forrest’s corner and the Celtic winger looked lively early on.
Forrest then delivered the cross for Scotland’s next chance as he picked out Shankland who showed great movement to get away from the defender and only a stunning point blank stop from Aldo Simoncini prevented him from scoring.
San Marino were never going to be able to hold out under the constant Scotland pressure and the opening goal arrived with 12 minutes on the clock.
Skipper Andy Robertson played a brilliant long range pass which found Ryan Christie and he jinked past the full back before curling a low net-bound shot which McGinn got the slightest touch to claim the goal.
It took TV replays to be sure McGinn got the touch but there was no doubting the Aston Villa man scored the second when he nettted from close range after Simoncini pushed McTominay’s cross into his path.
And McGinn completed his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time when Findlay headed Christie’s floated corner into his path and the midfielder netted on the turn.
With the game looking in serious doubt Scotland added a fourth with McTominay cracking a shot off the crossbar and Shankland on hand to knock home the rebound.
Findlay then made it a debut to remember when he nodded the fifth after the Kilmarnock stopper rose to get on the end of Christie’s corner before Armstrong curled a brilliant 20-yard free kick high into the net.
3 talking points
McGinn brings Villa form to Scotland
John McGinn has shown at club level this season that he’s got an eye for goal with three for Aston Villa from the middle of the park in the English Premier League.
And he is now taking that scoring form into international games with last night’s treble following on from his strike against Russia at Hampden last month.
McGinn rose to prominence as a midfield destroyer with St Mirren and Hibs but has shown more of an attacking side to his game south of the border.
That can only be good news for Steve Clarke who is desperate for goals from any area of the pitch as he looks to get the national team out of a rut.
New boys impress against minnows
At a time when there is very little for Scotland to get excited about then boss Steve Clarke will take any positives that come his way.
And as well as John McGinn showing his scoring touch, a couple of international new boys also enjoyed a night to remember by finding the net.
Lawrence Shankland showed promise when he came off the bench in the defeat in Russia and the Dundee United man followed that up with a goal on his first Scotland start.
Stuart Findlay was handed his debut in place of Charlie Mulgrew in the heart of defence and the stopper repaid his manager when he headed home Scotland’s fifth to become the first Killie player to score for Scotland since Tommy McLean against Wales in a 5-3 win at Wrexham in 1969.
Against a team who hadn’t won a game since 2004 and hadn’t scored in two years, it was never going to be a night where we learned much about Jon McLaughlin between the sticks but the outing won’t have done the Sunderland man any harm.
Fans and ballboys deserve medals
If and when Scotland make it back to the big time then those who turned out at Hampden will point to this game as a sign of their loyalty when times were tough.
A Sunday tea time kick isn’t the most convenient for supporters but on a night of torrential rain to watch Steve Clarke’s men take on the world’s worst nation? Every fan - and the poor ball boys eventually handed ponchos - who turned out for this one deserves a medal.
It was an eerie atmosphere although still not the a record low crowd - that remains the 11,375 for the Euro qualifier against Romania in December 1975 - with 20,699 the official attendance.
Given the SFA had handed out plenty complimentary tickets to schools and Boys Clubs it is a bit of a false figure but even with a freebie it must have been tempting to stay indoors on a night like this after a four-game losing streak.
But the national team’s recovery has to start somewhere and for Scotland last night it was against the team right at the bottom - ranked 210th in the world behind Anguilla.
There’s still a long way to go but if the win can at least help restore some of the shattered confidence for the the final two Euro 2020 qualifiers away to Cyprus and home to Kazakhstan, building towards the most important of all and the crucial play-off for a place at next summer’s finals, then it will at least have been worthwhile.