Alex McLeish absolved Jordan Archer of blame for Scotland’s 2-0 defeat to Peru but still intends to hand Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin a debut in the imposing Azteza stadium this weekend.
Archer endured a difficult debut in the Estadio Nacional del Peru as the hosts scored twice either side of half-time to condemn an inexperienced Scotland side to defeat in the opening clash of their two-match summer tour.
Next comes an arguably bigger test against Mexico in the intimidating setting of the Azteca stadium, scene of the World Cup finals in 1970 and 1982.
McLaughlin, out of contract at Hearts and whose club future remains unclear, will be tasked with taking over in goal. The 30 year old is expected to start but give away to Celtic’s Scott Bain sometime in the second half.
They both watched from the bench yesterday as Archer, one of a total of seven Scotland debutants against Peru, rushed from his goal with the intention of dealing with a ball up the left flank. The 25 year-old collided with Charlie Mulgrew and in the ensuing chaos Scott McKenna conceded a penalty by using an arm to stop Jefferson Farfan’s shot towards the empty goal. Christian Cueva converted the penalty.
Archer was also blamed in some quarters for letting Farfan’s effort shortly after half-time cross the line. But McLeish was adamant others had to carry the can for that game-ending strike.
“Jordan thinks he shouldn’t have come for the first one,” said McLeish. “I think it’s harsh to criticise him for the second. It’s point-blank, it’s come through a ruck of players. We’ve got to ask our defenders why they didn’t stop that cutback. [Scott] McTominay stopped the first one and the next one came through a channel we should be shutting out.”
“We spoke to him [Archer] after the game,” he said. “He is a big boy. He has played in a tough league this season with great aplomb in an amazing Millwall adventure that almost led to the play-offs.
“The only goal they targeted last season was to avoid relegation. So he has had a great season with a lot of shut-outs. He deserves to be here. There is not evidence another goalkeeper wouldn’t have made a mistake. We don’t have an experienced goalkeeper here. Every goalie makes a mistake.”
McLaughlin will hope he can avoid that in the early hours of Sunday morning, when he will see action for the first time for Scotland.
McLeish’s squad has been further reduced by the departures of Lewis Stevenson and Matt Phillips. Both players had an agreement they could leave after the opening game.
Stevenson, who made an accomplished debut against Peru at left-back, is going on a pre-booked family holiday. West Bromwich Albion striker Phillips, meanwhile, has a prior engagement.
“Lewis has gone back,” confirmed McLeish. “He has gone on a family holiday which was booked before he was called up. He bust a gut to come for this one and his family are already there so we agreed he would play one game. He is leaving but he had a smashing game [v Peru]. He showed he is a candidate. And Matt Phillips has an engagement. We agreed two months ago at the last gathering that he would come and play only one game.”
McLeish is not looking to call anyone else in and has been boosted by the arrival of Johnny Russell. The Sporting Kansas City was always going to join up with his international team-mates after the Peru match because of club commitments.
He is now likely to start in Mexico City, along with Celtic defender Jack Hendry and Aberdeen pair Ryan Christie and Graeme Shinnie, who came on as a second half substitute against Peru.