Scotland's 'birth of a backline' as pundits predict Anthony Ralston role in Steve Clarke's new defence after Armenia win

Steve Clarke’s changes to the Scotland team might be here to stay according to some former Scotland players, coaches and managers who watched the domination of Armenia at Hampden.

Scotland scored twice, and it could have been more but were rarely troubled by the side who defeated the Republic of Ireland a few days earlier.

The defensive changes made by the manager brought Scotland’s two goals as well as a clean sheet and Craig Levein – after being critical last week – believes there could be longevity in the line-up which saw Anthony Ralston and captain Andy Robertson either side of Jack Hendry, Scott McKenna and John Souttar.

Speaking on BBC Sportsound the former Scotland boss said: “I think we might have seen the birth of a new backline for Scotland tonight. When i started to think about it, the back three Hendry, Souttar and McKenna are all really quick. The wing-backs; Ralston - quick, Robertson – quick. Take those two off and put Patterson on – quick, Hickey – quick. For me you can play higher up the field the quicker your back-line is. I think they’re good defenders as well.

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"I was really impressed with them – the danger was switching off a little bit because you're more or less a spectator and watching most of the game happening. One or two little occasions maybe they did and in general I thought they started just about every attack and that’s really important if you are wanting to play football and not go back to front.”

Steve Clarke may have a selection headache now after ringing the changes and resting regular starter Grant Hanley, with Kieran Tierney a longer-term absentee.

Nathan Patterson’s return to fitness provides more competition for the right-back berth in Dublin this weekend, though Anthony Ralston was preferred at Hampden.

Anthony Ralston (R) celebrates making it 1-0 during a UEFA Nations League match between Scotland and Armenia with Jack Hendry. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Ex-national team right-back Alan Hutton said: “It has to be [Anthony Ralston] for me. He went out there and proved a point, made the position his own. The long term future is Nathan Patterson for me, if he can get to the standard we know he can, but at this moment in time Anthony Ralston has to play.”

Speaking on Premier Sports James McFadden added: “Look at the impact Nathan Patterson had last season when he was introduced to the side, the impact Anthony Ralston has had. That’s what you want – you want it hard to get into the team and you want to get in and keep your place.

"It's going to be tough with the games coming up, how close they are and the recovery. I wonder if Steve Clarke had it in his mind that this was the game for Anthony Ralston, Saturday is the game for Nathan Patterson and maybe the next one for Stephen O’Donnell.

Asked if he might change his mind, McFadden added: “I think Anthony Ralston has done enough. His positional sense was really good, and he was a threat in an attacking sense.

"Steve Clarke has had stick over the past week but he’s done it right, freshened it up with players like Anthony Ralston, hungry to play. As much as he kept some of it the same he brought that freshness and hunger to try and lift the side, and it worked brilliantly.”

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