GORDON Strachan shrugged off the disappointment of conceding a late equaliser in last night’s challenge match against Nigeria in London and hailed his team’s display as their best yet under his management.
Substitute Uche Nwofor struck in stoppage time to secure a 2-2 draw for the African champions after the Scots had led twice in a hugely entertaining contest at Craven Cottage.
Scotland have now stretched their unbeaten run to six matches and Strachan remains upbeat about their progress ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign which starts in September.
“In terms of positive play, that’s as good as it gets from us,” said Strachan. “We have been terrific as unit before and had a few chances in games but, overall, there was a bit of flair and imagination tonight against a really top side.”
Charlie Mulgrew gave the Scots a tenth-minute lead which was cancelled out four minutes before half-time by Michael Uchebo. An own goal from Azubike Egwuekwe, under pressure from James Morrison, saw Strachan’s men go ahead again seven minutes into the second half but they were denied victory by Nwofor’s late intervention.
Strachan believed fatigue played a part in his team not being able to see out victory, most of them having finished their domestic seasons more than two weeks ago.
“I liked a lot of things I saw there,” he added. “The only thing we had a problem with was the fact some of lads had not trained for three weeks. Most of them had been on holiday somewhere. I’m not saying they weren’t looking after themselves, and the way they tried to switch on again at training this week was terrific.
“But we lost a wee bit of fitness in the last 15 minutes. During the game, we were one pass away from really great move. We could have had four or five goals. That’s the first time I’ve said that after a game – we had a lot of chances. I’d put the fact we didn’t finish them off down to rustiness. In terms of what I saw and what we are trying do, in terms of movement and trying to get closer to the striker, I liked that. The shape we had when we didn’t have the ball was good as well.
“Charlie Mulgrew did terrific for his goal and we were unlucky with their first equaliser. There is a lot to be proud of, I’m just disappointed didn’t get the win.”
Strachan gave Derby County striker Chris Martin a half-time debut and was impressed by the new addition to his squad. He also handed out praise to Dundee United left-back Andrew Robertson and Watford winger Ikechi Anya. “Nobody has disappointed me tonight,” said Strachan. “Chris Martin gave us a new dimension. Andrew Robertson and Ikechi Anya were terrific down the left side. “
Quizzed by Nigerian reporters over Anya’s decision to play for Scotland, rather than the nation of his father’s birth, Strachan replied: “I didn’t know there was a furore about him choosing Scotland over Nigeria. Of course he’s Scottish – you don’t get any better than being born in Castlemilk!”