Steve Clarke explains Craig Gordon's manic 24 hours, issues injury update on duo and reacts to star's suspension

Steve Clarke hailed the contribution of Craig Gordon after the veteran goalkeeper left the Scotland camp less than 24 hours before Saturday night’s match against Republic of Ireland to attend the birth of his new son, before returning and making a key save in the 2-1 victory at Hampden.

Gordon made a crucial one-on-one block from Troy Parrott when the score was tied at 1-1 midway through the second half. It allowed Scotland to build on the momentum of Jack Hendry’s 50th-minute equaliser after John Egan had put the Irish ahead in the first period, with Ryan Christie converting an 84th-minute penalty to keep Scotland top of Group B1 in the Nations League.

They now require a point against Ukraine in Krakow on Tuesday to secure top spot and promotion to the highest echelon of the tournament, plus a guaranteed play-off berth for Euro 2024.

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They would not be in such a position had it not been for Gordon, however, who showed his commitment to the cause once again. He left the Scotland base at 10.30pm on Friday to be at his partner Summer’s side as she gave birth to a boy. He then returned the following morning, skipped a team meeting to get some sleep before taking his place in goal against the Irish.

Craig Gordon made a big save from Troy Parrott to help Scotland defeat Republic of Ireland.
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“Very early this morning, so he didn’t get much sleep last night,” Clarke said of Gordon’s new arrival. “I believe he’s got a lovely baby boy, over 9lbs, so he’s a big baby boy.

"He asked if he could be excused lunchtime meeting for some kip. Wife and baby are both doing very well, that’s the main thing.

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“Craig did what he always does. He had to make one big save in the game, he put the onus on the striker and Craig made the save as he normally does.

"You can’t speak highly enough of him. He is so important for this team.

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Steve Clarke celebrates the win over the Irish.

“He’s getting older but he shows no signs of going backwards. He wants to keep improving, he wants to keep doing well and he wants to be part of this successful group of players, which is great. And for me as a head coach, it’s a pleasure to be his head coach.”

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Clarke had to replace both his full-backs during the match after Kieran Tierney and Aaron Hickey both picked up knocks. There is some concern over Tierney in particular, who was replaced due to suspected concussion.

"It was just precautionary,” Clarke said of Tierney’s situation. “I let the medics deal with all that.

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“He just got a knock on the head. It’s better to be safe. The fact Kieran hasn’t played a full 90 minutes too – I had Greg Taylor ready to come on.

“I actually considered starting Greg if I’m being honest because Kieran is still playing catch-up on minutes. It was just that decision.

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“Hickey’s hamstring was a bit tight.”

One player who will be missing against Ukraine is Scott McTominay, who picked up a late yellow card and is suspended for the match in Krakow.

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"Scott is suspended,” confirmed Clarke. “It’s disappointing, for something that happened so late in the game.

“But we have plenty of cover, many midfield players, if it has to be Ryan Jack or Kenny McLean we have good bodies to go into the midfield.

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“It’s a blow to lose Scott because he is good for us but it’s a great chance for someone to play in a fantastic game.”

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