Although the Scots improved markedly in the second half of their World Cup qualifier in Copenhagen two early goals scored within the space of two minutes ended their hopes of taking something from the game in front of a passionate home crowd.
Clarke surprised everyone by fielding skipper Andy Robertson at right wing-back after he was left without a recognised right back due to the unavailability of Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan Patterson. The switch did not go well and Robertson reverted to his more familiar left wing-back role in the second half with Kieran Tierney moving into left centre-half.
“It was not an experiment, was it?” Clarke said when asked if he felt the experiment had backfired. “It was something we were forced into doing really. We could have gone for other options.
“We felt that was the best way to start the game, to get the experienced players on the pitch. It was not so much the personnel I think it was more the shape of the team. We allowed them to pin us back, we made the pitch too long and the midfield could not get close to the opposition. The midfield could not get a handle on the game. It was more the team’s shape than the personnel.”
Clarke stressed that he could still take some positives from the way the Scots battled back into the game. They came closest to scoring in the second-half when Ryan Fraser’s shot was well saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
“I think from about thirty minutes in we started to get a foothold, but by then the game was a little bit beyond our reach at 2-0 down,” he said.
“It was always going to be a tough night. I think we showed signs towards the end of the half that we could get the ball down and we could play. We have to be braver on the ball under pressure, in the second half I thought we were.
“I thought the shape of the team was better, we played five yards further up the pitch and allowed everyone to be more connected.”
The manager contends that the result changes little in terms of Scotland’s chances of qualifying for next winter’s World Cup finals in Qatar. Scotland have slipped from second to fourth in Group F after wins for Austria and Israel over Moldova and the Faroe Isles respectively.
“We are still in the group, no problem,” he said. “We have a tough game at home at the weekend against Moldova, if we get three points there we will look forward to Austria away. But the first focus is Saturday. We must get the three points.”
Asked if both Moldova this weekend and Austria in Vienna next Tuesday were now must-win games, he said: “I don’t know. I don’t know what the points total will be, I always say that – but you keep asking.
“No one wants to lose,” he added. “I am disappointed and the players are disappointed but we will dust ourselves down and try and get the three points that we need on Saturday.”
He hopes to gain reinforcements when the depleted squad return to Scotland to prepare for this weekend. “I won’t know until I get back home,” he said. “Hopefully Kevin Nisbet, Stephen O’Donnell, John McGinn and Nathan Patterson will join the squad again. Hopefully they are fit and well, they have been isolating so we will see how their fitness is.”