Strachan’s Scots continue winning ways in Warsaw

Scotland goalscorer Scott Brown is congratulated by Ikechi Anya, left, and Steven Naismith. Picture: Reuters
Scotland goalscorer Scott Brown is congratulated by Ikechi Anya, left, and Steven Naismith. Picture: Reuters
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SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan last night lavished praise on scorer Scott Brown after a 1-0 victory in Poland that extends the team’s formidable form to three consecutive away wins and four clean sheets.

The Celtic captain’s imperious 77th minute strike allowed Scotland to win without producing any real sparkle and, asked to explain the latest chapter in the remarkable rehabilitation of the national team during his 13 months in charge, Strachan said: “Scott Brown. That’s all really.

“He is ungainly in a way, but he can do all the things that good midfielders do in that he can pass the ball and move it on,” Strachan expanded later.

“But he also has the power to win the ball, and the power to keep it, and can dribble with it.”

Strachan, who offered “thanks” to his players for their efforts “at a time in the season when they could have easily slacked off, was at pains to stress the result would have no bearing on the Euro 2016 meeting between the two teams in the same Warsaw national stadium on 14 October. “Absolutely not,” he said of the suggestion.

“I think we all know that. It could have gone either way.

“We have seen the stadium, saw the support they get here and the enthusiasm of the team playing here so it allows us to acclimatise here.” Strachan acknowledged that he had only completed stage one of his recovery plan for the national team.

“It was bit fortunate tonight, we understand that, but there was a lot of things we worked on,” he said. “We try to be more potent when we get the ball back, we need to be more confident, more trusting when passing the ball into people like we did for the goal, where we were brave and passed it to people and made defenders defend.

“We need to do more of that. But we are beginning to understand it a bit better. But people find it hard to play against us and that’s great, that’s a start. What we have to improve on is the attacking side. I’m sure the next time we meet there will be more attackers on there from both sides.”

David Marshall was retained in goal by Strachan despite Allan McGregor having returned to the squad but the Scotland coach gave a flat “no” when asked if that made Marshall the No 1. “He is the number one tonight. I spent about an hour and 40 minutes making decisions last night and that says a lot.

“If you spend that amount of time talking tactics, talking who to pick and not to pick, then you know your squad is getting stronger. [Steven] Naismith, [Steven] Fletcher, toss of a coin, Marshall, McGregor, toss of a coin. It’s good that I have these problems.

“They’re not real problems picking them for friendlies, it’s about when it comes to the nitty gritty.”

Strachan said he could not quantify how much Scotland have improved in a year. “I’ve not an idea. I don’t think you can quantify that.

“But we are hard to beat, I want to take it on a stage further. The players have to take that next step, it’s on their shoulders. It’s up to them, and the ones maybe not here tonight, to take us a stage further so that when we have the ball we’re a real threat.

“At the moment we’re trying to retain the ball better so the other team has less chances because we have the ball.”

On the night of Darren Fletcher’s return to the national side after illness prevented him appearing since 2012, Strachan could also delight in the substitute appearance of Andrew Robertson, the Dundee United left-back earning a first cap.

“Andy came on and the first time he picked it up, he drove about 30 yards. I thought that was fantastic. He just thought I’m going to do what I do. I loved that first initial touch he had.”