Russell Martin believes James McArthur’s late equaliser on Saturday night could yet prove a significant strike, even if its immediate value was merely to secure a point at home against Lithuania.
The Scotland defender admitted manager Gordon Strachan had to rouse the players afterwards as they reflected on what felt like two points dropped. But, when they learned of Slovakia’s defeat by Slovenia, the Scots realised the chance they have tomorrow to turn the heat up on their rivals for second place, if England live up to their tag of group favourites.
“It feels like it could be a big goal,” the Norwich player said. “It was a bit flat and frustrated in the dressing room. But like the manager said, we are still second in the group and Slovakia have lost tonight.
“We could go there on Tuesday and turn this into a really good point,” added Martin. “It is up to us. It’s frustrating because we dominated the game and the chances. They have two or three chances and they scored.
“If we go to Slovakia and don’t get beaten then we are still unbeaten. But of course we want to go there and get a win, especially with them not taking a point from their first two games.
“It is going to be a topsy turvy group,” he continued. “We knew that from the start and England only beating Malta 2-0 shows there is a bit of depth to it. We will go to Slovakia and try and win the game but the most important thing is to make sure we come out of it unbeaten.”
Strachan, he reported, was still upbeat about Scotland’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup finals in Russia. “He is always pretty positive,” he said. “He alluded to the fact that [performance] was better than the two friendlies we won against Denmark and the Czech Republic.
“But we didn’t get the result. We are keeping calm. We know we have things to work on before we move on to Tuesday. Hopefully we will be sitting a little bit happier after Tuesday.”
Martin could be in line to lead Scotland out tomorrow evening if Darren Fletcher fails to recover from a dead leg sustained during the first-half on Saturday night. He stressed he is always happy to do so.
“I’ve done it a couple of times now and it is always a huge honour,” he said. “Unfortunately, Fletch got injured but I was very proud to take the armband [in the second-half]. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get the win.
“I would 100 per cent be happy to take the armband if Fletch isn’t there on Tuesday but that will be up to the manager. We will see.”
Robert Snodgrass meanwhile, admitted the performance versus Lithuania “had not gone to plan”. But, like Martin, the midfielder expressed confidence Scotland can regain some lost momentum in Trnava.
“If you are not going to win the game then it is important not to get beat,” he said of Saturday night’s late comeback. “They [Lithuania] have created maybe two chances in the whole game and taken one of them. If we can go there [to Slovakia] and win then you are looking at being on seven points after three games,” he added. “It’s a big one for us.
“The manager knows straight that once things don’t go to plan like this then we need to go there and win. It would give us a real mental edge over them at this stage in the group.
“We knew it was going to be a big game anyway. It was probably going to be the toughest game of the two.
“But we can’t wait to get going because we are desperate to put the disappointment of this one behind us by getting a result. It’s so early in the group but going seven clear [of Slovakia] would give us a real edge so it will be all the sweeter if we get the win.”