The Monday meeting and formation change that has helped Scotland get back on track
There was a change in formation, a lift in performance levels and a subsequent upturn in fortunes as Scotland turned in one of their most complete displays in years on Wednesday.
Combined, those things altered the mood dramatically, after a summer of disappointment and drubbings, first losing out to Ukraine in the World Cup play-off and then meekly succumbing to a miserably comprehensive defeat at the hands of Saturday’s Nations League rivals, the Republic of Ireland.
But, having demanded reparations for the first of those as Steve Clarke’s men battered the Ukrainians to leapfrog them and assume pole position in Group B1, they now play host to Stephen Kenny’s side hoping for similar measures of atonement.
“As a footballer, it’s never nice to get beat. But I think the manner we got beat that day wasn’t good,” explained defender Jack Hendry, who is currently on loan at Italian Serie A club Cremonese after a couple of years in Belgium.
The display in Dublin was a source of embarrassment for all involved at the time but, having had time to reflect, the memories of that day are being used as a way to hopefully motivate significant improvement in front of a sell-out Hampden crowd.
“I’m sure everyone in that dressing room is motivated,” added the 27-year-old. “I’m certainly motivated to go out and put in a performance that makes the country proud. We let them down in Dublin and we don’t want to do that again on Saturday.
“Thankfully we got a positive result against Ukraine so we go into this game with a lot of confidence.
“The boys were desperate to bounce back from the summer. We were due one for the country but we’ve got to continue this now. We’ve got two very important games coming up. We’ve managed to get to the top of the group and it’s in our hands to stay there.”
Two draws in the remaining two fixtures would be enough to guarantee that as Hendry and co eye up regular participation in major finals.
“We’ve got really good players in that dressing room and a really good coaching staff. It’s always been a really good group. It’s just been finding the key to get to major tournaments like the World Cup.
“Performances like the one against Ukraine will help.”
An altered formation, reverting to a back four, and a lot of hard graft to practice and then execute it provided the platform for the midweek success.
“When we got in on Monday we analysed what went wrong in the summer, what we did well, what we’ve got to improve on to be that bit more aggressive. The change in formation certainly helped that.
‘It was a couple of days of trying to take in as much information as possible and then trying to put it into practice. Thankfully, it worked.
“It probably couldn't have gone much better, with how much of a threat we were in the second half and the goals we got, as well as the lack of shots against us. I think it was a real collectively-good performance.
“With the amount of shots we got off and how much we locked in and prevented them getting chances, it’s definitely up there. To stop them having a shot on target says lots.”