Chris Martin’s late winner handed Scotland a crucial 1-0 win over Slovenia to breath fresh life into their World Cup qualifying campaign. Craig Fowler and Angus Wright give their take on the match
There’s fight in this team after all
The nation’s faint hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup appeared to be slipping away as the seconds ticked down at Hampden. But Chris Martin’s late winner means Scotland can now look forward to June’s clash with England with, if not renewed optimism, then at least something to play for other than national pride.
It will also prolong Strachan’s reign by another three months. The boss was expected to resign if his side failed to claim victory, but his position remains safe for now. Whether that’s ultimately a good or bad thing we shall wait and see, but no-one wants to see their side lose a game of football and, who knows, maybe this is the turning point we’ve been searching for ever since the malaise started after the 2014 victory over Ireland.
Boo a player on and you’ll only look foolish
The Derby striker, on loan at Fulham, has struggled to win over the Tartan Army since making his debut three years ago but however they may feel about the 28-year-old, he did not deserve to be booed as he made his entrance with nine minutes remaining. But Martin shoved his detractors’ sneers back down their throats as he fired home the precious late winner.
Scotland supporters have been frustrated by what they’ve witnessed in the past two years, not to mention the extortionate ticket prices, both of which combined to leave Hampden half-empty. Therefore, they have every right to voice their displeasure, but there are ways to go about doing so. There’s very little to be gained from booing a player on to the park.
Stuart Armstrong looks the part
The Celtic midfielder won his first Scotland cap just four days shy of his 25th birthday but he looked as though he had been playing international football for years. Composed on the ball and full of energy, he carried on in the same impressive manner to that of his recent club performances. The former Dundee United playmaker capped an encouraging debut by laying on the pass which led to Martin’s decisive strike.
It shows how much the midfielder has come in such a short space of time. When he replaced Tom Rogic in Celtic’s Champions League contest with Manchester City earlier in season, the drop-off in technical quality was striking. And yet, here we are six months on, and against a reasonable international side he looked the most accomplished player on the park. It’s remarkable, and also very pleasing. For there are few players more likeable than Armstrong.
Kieran Tierney is on the right track
With no natural right-back in Strachan’s squad, the 19-year-old Celtic left-back was asked to fill in on the opposite flank as he collected just his fourth cap. Defensively he was solid, adapting his position well while also coping impressively with the physical challenge brought by the visitors.
In attack, there is little doubt his movement and passing was curtailed, especially in the first half, by the new role. That’s not a knock on Tierney, he still played well. We just know how good he can be and he looked short of that for the first hour, appearing uncomfortable with his role once he crossed the halfway line and hesitant to do what would come naturally on the left, and that’s hit the byline. However, he gained confidence as the game went on and in the closing stages you could have been forgiven for thinking he was a natural right-back. It’s certainly an experiment worth trying again.
Leigh Griffiths needs to relax
The striker admitted on the eve of the match that his desperation to break his scoring duck for Scotland was having a negative effect on his usual deadly eye for goal. But he was once again guilty of snatching at a golden chance when he smashed against the crossbar from just three yards midway through the first period.
It’s an issue for Griffiths even at club level. You’d think of him as the perfect striker to bring off the bench, but he plays with such urgency that he sometimes needs a couple of sights at goal to settle himself down and get into his rhythm. It’s a harder thing to do at international level when chances are at a premium. That being said, he was desperately unlucky when he rifled against the post from 18 yards shortly after his miss.
You have a feeling once Griffiths gets his first, he’s going to go on a tear. This game should have provided that moment.