The Scotland manager was within his rights to pronounce himself satisfied with his side’s performance in a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands in Faro.
A team featuring several players who might not otherwise have been given the chance to shine were just two minutes away from registering a famous victory over the Dutch.
The Scots have not beaten the Netherlands since a 1-0 win in 2003 – when Gilmour was just two. The Chelsea midfielder was not expected to feature but played the last nine minutes after replacing fellow debutant David Turnbull.
Clarke was forced to turn to auxiliaries after being denied the services of seven players. John Fleck tested positive for Covid on the eve of the match and six others were left behind at the training camp in Spain as “a precaution”. But Clarke saw his side rise to the occasion and twice take the lead against Frank de Boer’s men in their first pre-Euro 2020 friendly.
Jack Hendry opened the scoring with a fine drive after ten minutes before Memphis Depay scored the first of his two equalisers seven minutes later. Substitute Nisbet struck his first Scotland goal after 64 minutes. Depay levelled with two minutes left from a harshly awarded free-kick, after Hendry was penalised for barging the striker.
“We would like to have won the game but the referee took that away from us with the award of a really soft free-kick,” said Clarke. “But we can overlook that because the performance was good and we wanted a good performance and we managed to do that against a good Dutch team.”
Clarke praised Nisbet and Gilmour, noting that the latter “got first cap before his first training session – it’s fantastic!” As for the former, he said he was not surprised by the goal.
“Kevin told me in the press this week that if he got a chance to play he would score – it was nice that he lived up to those words!”
Clarke confirmed that all those players left behind in Spain, bar Fleck, will train today. The Sheffield United midfielder needs to return a negative test before he can think about returning to the group.
“We will give him a couple of days to do that,” said the manager. “We will give him a bit of time. He has not turned any negative tests as of yet.”
He said those who stepped in gave him what he wanted – the prospect of sleepless nights. “I don’t think five or six would have started from the six left behind but there would have been two or three. But the boys who came in in their place know their role and they know their jobs.
“I think what has happened in the last couple of days, you learn to go one day at a time,” he added. “The good performance from all of the players tonight gives me more problems and more decisions to make as the head coach and that’s what we want.
“I want difficult decisions, I want sleepless nights. Ultimately I want to pick the right team to start the first game in the tournament.”