Andrew Smith: Classy Fletcher revels in playmaker role

Steven Fletcher operated in the space behind Leigh Griffiths. Picture: Michael Gillen
Steven Fletcher operated in the space behind Leigh Griffiths. Picture: Michael Gillen
Share this article
3
Have your say

It might have felt like a real novelty to see two strikers combined in a Scotland team selected by Gordon Strachan. What was genuinely unprecedented in the attacking confection ranged against Denmark last night was the identity of the pair placed furthest forward in the home side.

You can comb the annals of Scottish football but, with Leigh Griffiths heading up the side and Steven Fletcher entrusted with the task of parting the visitors’ defence in behind him, last night we had a follicle first. Never before have Scotland weaved together two strikers that, up top, owe their generous covering to the wonders of modern science.

Lashing rain could have been a threat to these Scots keeping their hair on. The advanced techniques for plugging the gaps created by Mother Nature – in the form of male pattern baldness – allowed Griffths and Fletcher to slap down the cloned hair sewn into their bereft heads and get on with the business of providing hair-raising experiences for Age Hareide’s side. As with their coiffuring stylists, they did a decent job.

Neither player may have found the net, which leaves Griffiths still seeking a first international goal. Equally, neither made it to the latter stages of an encounter that became more of a friendly as it wore on.

However, the manner in which Fletcher revelled in his playmaker role suggested there could be potential for the sprouting of a partnership with encouraging strands to it, should Griffiths be given further opportunities to cement the postion of lone central striker.

The Celtic striker had few sightings of goal in his third start and seventh cap for his country overall. Curiously, Fletcher, as the middle man in the three behind Griffiths, carried a menace he has so often been accused of failing to possess when decked in dark blue. Or, as it was last night courtesy of the country’s new kit, decked out in kit of blue breast plate and white sleeves.

Fletcher’s class, though, is too often under-appreciated by Scotland followers. The man currently on loan at Marseilles from Sunderland revelled in the space he was able to find and exploit in the 45-minute run-out he was given.

He isn’t a spearhead performer since his touch and vision are best suited to dropping deep and finding little pockets from which to engineer attacks.

As he approaches 30, Fletcher could be the perfect 10.

Yet, he didn’t just sit off the play. With a smart spin and an audacious lob, he had Kasper Schmeichel scrambling aross his goal.

His awareness then allowed him to be at the front post to get a few plastic hairs on the end of a curling cross from Steven Whittaker, another whose curls are the product of laboratory methods, with the resultant Schmeichel save depriving Scotland of an end product to their best opportunity since Matt Ritchie’s eighth-minute opener.

That was three minutes before half-time and, therefore, three minutes before Fletcher was withdrawn from the fray, Ikechi Anya appearing in his place. Griffiths made way for Chris Martin 15 minutes into the second half.

With these switches, healthy amounts of real, live hair as old as the heads it was piled on, was added to the Scotland attack.

However, neither of these players could pluck a chance from thin air much like the players they had replaced.