Gordon Strachan defended his decision to start Chris Martin ahead of Leigh Griffiths following Scotland’s 1-1 draw with Lithuania at Hampden, hailing the striker’s “outstanding” performance.
The Scotland national team boss elected to start with the same side that won 5-1 at Malta, which meant Martin kept his place at the head of the attack, despite Griffiths returning to the fold after missing the last match through injury.
It did not have the desired effect as Scotland struggled at home to one of the weaker teams in the World Cup qualification group, delivering an early blow in their hopes of reaching Russia 2018.
Griffiths was given the final 20 minutes as Scotland went two up top and finally managed to break through in the dying seconds, with James McArthur rescuing a point. Strachan’s resistance to starting with the Celtic hitman, who bagged 40 goals last season, is a major bone of contention among the Scotland support.
While Strachan admitted the first half showing was below par, he hailed the players’ efforts after the break, particularly his lone striker.
He said: “I thought the first half was a game from the English Championship, where the ball was in the air a lot of the time.
“The second half, we played well, the best we’ve played for a long time. We had more chances than we did in Malta. It was exciting stuff at times. And we did well to come back from the body blow we suffered.
“We had some great performances tonight. I thought Chris Martin was outstanding up front, bringing people into the game.
“A lot of people will be going home disgruntled, but it’s a tough group. We knew that. It could be a big point come the end of the campaign.”