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Scotland May upset Dutch if Stevie keeps scoring

St Johnstone striker Stevie May looks relaxed during Scotland U21 training at Mar Hall. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

St Johnstone striker Stevie May looks relaxed during Scotland U21 training at Mar Hall. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

  • by EWING GRAHAME
 

SCOTLAND under-21 manager Billy Stark believes St Johnstone striker Stevie May can find the goals to cut down the Netherlands in Paisley tonight.

May bagged 27 goals for the Scottish Cup winners last season and also grabbed a vital counter for the under-21s in their 2-1 victory over group leaders Slovakia in October.

Stark is hoping for a repeat of that form against the Dutch, who hammered the Scots in Nijmegen eight months ago.

“It underlined the thin line between success and failure at this level,” said Stark.

“If you’re having a good spell and creating chances then you need to take them, otherwise you’ll be punished. Their second goal, by Luc Castaignos, underlined that.

“It was a world-class finish when he was under pressure, four yards out from the byeline and he puts it in the top corner at the far post.

“You expect the top teams to have that quality up front but we have Stevie May, who is coming to the end of a season he’ll find very difficult to surpass.

“What comes along with that is a confidence. When Steven Anderson opened the scoring against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final, you could see by how Stevie reacted that he had that confidence – even though he hadn’t scored the goal.

“On the one hand, we have the Hibs situation but the situation with Stevie is a very positive one. He’s had a great campaign and won individual awards and he is obviously our main hope in terms of scoring.

“As a manager, when you go into any game you have to look at who is going to get you a goal. Of course, theoretically, anyone could do it but it’s a bit more methodical than that.”

Stark is also hoping that the hard work done on the training ground in the last week could pay off tonight.

He added: “There are certain players who have a good scoring record. Callum McGregor was Notts County’s top scorer last season and he didn’t play all that often towards the end when they went more direct. Dundee United’s Stuart Armstrong is another. He got double figures from midfield last season and you wouldn’t be surprised if he scored.

“He had a chance when he was one on one with their goalkeeper in Holland but the centre-half came in late. If Stuart goes down it’s a penalty and a sending-off but he’s so honest and stayed on his feet, the ball took a bobble and the chance was gone.

“We need to win and there are various ways of doing that and we’ve stressed the importance of set-pieces to the players.

“Look at Real Madrid. They have some of the most skilful players in the world but it was a defender’s header from a corner which saved them in the Champions League final.

“So we’ve worked hard on them and that might give us the opportunity to make the breakthrough.”

Stark also hopes that the shock wins by Hamilton Accies and ten-man QPR at the weekend can inspire his players tonight. “Those play-off results were interesting and history is littered with underdogs having their day although, by its very nature, it doesn’t happen all the time. But there have been some obvious examples of that in the last few weeks. We are now the underdogs after losing 4-0 in Holland, even though that scoreline didn’t give a true reflection of the game.

“They’re going to have more of the ball. That’s the way they play – they look to dominate but we need to make sure we’re organised while taking any advantage that comes our way.”

 

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