Gordon Strachan believes he and his Scotland side have “dragged ourselves out of the bad place” as they battle with renewed hope for a place in the 2018 World Cup finals.
The Scots moved into third place in Group F on Friday evening with a convincing 3-0 win in Lithuania, ahead of their home game against minnows Malta on Monday night.
With three fixtures remaining, Strachan’s side are six points behind England and four behind Slovakia, who meet at Wembley in their next fixture.
Scotland are unbeaten in their last three qualifiers and still probably need three wins from their last three Group F fixtures to capture a play-off spot.
But their position is a whole lot healthier than it was when they lost 3-0 to England in London last November to leave them with four points from four games.
Manager Strachan, who confirmed midfielder Barry Bannan withdrew from the squad after failing to shake off a niggling injury, noted the recent renaissance.
He said: “The belief has always come from the group of players we have got, which has evolved over the last year for different reasons: confidence, injuries, people playing better, their club sides doing better.
“But I have never had any doubts in the players really, and because we have never had any doubts with each other we could come back from not being in a good place.
“If we didn’t believe in ourselves, when you are not on a good place you can’t get out of it.
“We have dragged ourselves out of the bad place and we could only have done that if we believed in each other and enjoy working with each other.”
Bannan (foot) fellow Sheffield Wednesday team-mate Steven Fletcher (knee)in missing out on international selection due to injury.