Liam Palmer: ‘We have momentum... now we have to keep ball rolling’
Along with goalkeeper David Marshall and striker Lyndon Dykes, the versatile Sheffield Wednesday man was entitled to feel satisfied with his contribution to the 2-1 Nations League win against an improvised Czech Republic side.
Palmer, operating as a right wing-back in manager Steve Clarke’s experimental and largely unconvincing 3-5-1-1 formation, was composed throughout and provided the crucial assist for Dykes to claim his first Scotland goal and cancel out Jakub Pesek’s early opener for the hosts.
It was a sixth Scotland cap for Palmer, five of them earned under Clarke, and the 28-year-old was thrilled to help Dykes get on the scoresheet after the big QPR forward had gained little reward for his admirable efforts on his debut in the 1-1 draw against Israel at Hampden four days earlier.
“It was hard work for him in the first game against Israel,” said Palmer. “He put in a real shift and nothing really fell for him.
“So we are delighted for Lyndon to get off the mark. Kenny McLean told him before the game he was going to score and I was delighted when it came off his foot and went into the roof of the net.
“I was delighted with the assist. I was just trying to get forward as the manager said. Having been a goal down, we needed to react as soon as possible and we managed to do so, to claw our way back in.”
Palmer admitted Scotland struggled to handle the unusual build-up to Monday’s game which was initially in doubt before the Czechs selected a completely new squad at short notice, their first-choice players having been quarantined after positive Covid-19 tests within the camp.
“It was ‘Is the game on, is it off?’,” added Palmer. “We were trying to keep focused. You try to prepare for a game but things were a little bit disruptive. The manager didn’t have much to go on in his pre-match meetings.
“Normally we would go through four or five different videos and clips of the opposition but we weren’t privy to that this time.
“Sometimes you have to react as a group of players on the pitch. It’s not always down to what the manager tells you.
“If you spot something during a game, it’s up to us as players to react to it – whether it’s an extra body at a corner or your man goes off and someone else comes on.
“You’ve always got to be taking accountability on the pitch and I think in the last ten minutes, when they were throwing their keeper up front and making it difficult, we reacted to it and won a lot of first balls and second balls on the edge and put our bodies on the line. It paid dividends in the end.
“Coming into it, we knew they would be right at it from the first whistle and that’s how it was.
“Some of them had an opportunity to shine and may never play for their country again. Especially after going a goal down early doors, we had to dig in and show that reaction to adversity. That’s what the manager always speaks about. It’s one of the things he likes to focus on and it’s something we have shown in recent games, so that’s definitely a positive to take into the next camp.”
That next gathering will see Scotland face Israel again at Hampden in the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final on 10 October and Palmer insists they will approach it with confidence.
“It’s momentum, four wins out of our last five games and top of the Nations League group after the first two games of the campaign,” he added. “That’s what we set out to do and we want to keep that ball rolling. We still have it all in front of us with the play-off games for Euro 2020, or 2021 as it is now, so we are looking forward to that. There were some positives and that’s what we are going to focus on going into next month.
“We end the camp on a positive note, unbeaten in the two games and having stretched that run to five games now. We will all go back to our clubs and look to kick on there, with an eye towards next month.”
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