Why Scotland need to go to plan B in the striker department for England showdown
It may be 23 years since Scotland last played in a major finals but in so many ways they slipped right back into an old, undermining, routine. The fact is strikers rarely score for the nation at major finals.
Ally McCoist did so, famously and superbly, to earn the ultimately insufficient 1-0 victory over Switzerland in Euro 96. Brian McClair netted in a dead rubber 3-0 success over the CIS at Euro ‘92. Those goals stand as the only one netted from open play by a Scotland forward in tournament football for 29 years - a sorry sequence that covers Scotland’s five finals appearances subsequent to their 1982 World Cup appearance.
Steve Clarke’s curt response when effectively asked if he regretted not selecting Che Adams alongside Lyndon Dykes in his starting line-up for the 2-0 defeat by the Czech Republic was a tacit admission that he absolutely did. A fact also evidenced by his half-time removal of Ryan Christie for the Southampton front man. Christie may have been paired with Dykes, but there was no sense of the two being able to operate in tandem.
With Adams and Kevin Nisbet available to the Scotland manager, his motivations for deploying Christie as his second striker weren’t easy to divine. Moreover, Dykes’ wastefulness and Christie’s isolation and detatchment from the Australian, makes it arguable that Clarke could have been better served by setting aside both his first pick strikers in favour of the Adams-Nisbet combo he ended the Group D opener with.
Adams, with two goals in four outings before these finals, is a player that has offered Scotland a different dimension across his short international career. He is quick, strong and capable of exhibiting an assurance that it can be presumed is not unrelated to the 24-year-old operating in the English top flight. Dykes, for all his unadoubted industry and ability to hold the ball up, is not a penalty box predator - as the Queen’s Park Rangers striker demonstrated by shooting straight at the keeper after he was teed up perfectly by an Adams’ knockdown midway through the second period.
Dykes is now nine international outings without finding the net. Two goals across his first four caps provided a false impression of the contribution entitled to be expected from the 25-year-old.
The closest to a goal sniffer Scotland have in their squad is Nisbet, who became the first Hibs player to feature in a major finals for Scotland in 47 years with his substitute outing at Hampden. He only appeared in the 78th minute - replacing Dykes - but the Hibs man appeared more obviously threatening, far more likely to nick a goal. As, of course, he did in the 2-2 draw in a warm-up encounter with the Netherlands the other week that perhaps falsely inflated hopes over Scotland’s likely competitiveness in Group D.
Clarke must consider bold rethinks for Friday’s trepidicious trip to Wembley. It is a shot-to-nothing. Surely there is more to be gained than lost by immediately moving to plan B. In that scenario, hand Adams the starting place that seemed his to lose before the line-up was announced for the Czechs. Meanwhile, don’t ask Christie to be something he is not, and assess whether Nisbet’s time might have arrived. In all likelihood, the Easter Road striker would be fancied more than Dykes to snaffle the sort of half-chances Scotland, in all probability, will be restricted to against England. Mind you, tournament history doesn’t favour any frontline personnel Clarke could field.
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