Stephen O’Donnell: I need to cut out mistakes to earn more Scotland caps

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Stephen O’Donnell has accepted he needs to stop being involved in the concession of goals if he is to add to his six Scotland caps to date.

The Kilmarnock right-back rose to prominence when Alex McLeish included him in the squad for the summer tour to Peru and Mexico.

Scotland's Stephen O'Donnell shows his dejection after Helder Costa scores for Portugal. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

Scotland's Stephen O'Donnell shows his dejection after Helder Costa scores for Portugal. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

He surprisingly started both games in the Americas and has appeared a further four times since, playing from the start of Sunday night’s 3-1 defeat by Portugal.

O’Donnell was partly culpable for at least two of the three goals and now must hope he can retain his place for the final two Nations League group games against Albania and Israel next month.

He was used at wing-back in the first Group C1 games against Albania and Israel before reverting to his favoured position of right-back against the Portuguese.

“The first goal was a bit unfortunate, but I dropped early at the second,” he said, with Locomotiv Moscow forward Eder having risen above O’Donnell to make it 2-0 after 73 minutes.

“There was a bit of an overload at the back post,” added O’Donnell. “I’ve seen their player make a run and I’ve tried to get in there, but the delivery has been perfect and I got punished.

“That was my fault. We were told to drop on the last step and I hold my hands up for that one.

“Reflection is great, but it wasn’t good enough at the time. I need to make sure I’m not involved in goals. I’m a defender first and foremost.

“I thought I did well at times and I’m not afraid to get on to the ball, but it’s not for me to say if I’m going to fill that spot.

“I’ve enjoyed my six games that I’ve played and, hopefully, there is more. But if there is more, I can’t be involved in any more goals and that is something I’m certainly going to work on.”

O’Donnell feels Scotland redeemed themselves to an extent against Portugal.

The Israel defeat last Thursday night will take a while to erase from the collective consciousness but he believes the players, particularly internationally inexperienced ones such as him, are learning from the exposure to top-rated countries.

“There was a lot more collective disappointment after Israel,” he said. “At the end of the day, you compare the games – The Nations League is the reason why we were away. That’s are the important part.

“The friendlies are also important, but the Israel game was massively disappointing afterwards. Portugal was a friendly where you look to see if you are improving and trying to put things we have worked on into play. I thought we did that, same as [against] Belgium.

“I thought we competed with a very good side,” he added. “They have some big players missing, but so did we. Obviously, we changed to the four at the back, which was good.

“It was a disappointing result again, but we came away from it learning a bit more.”

Meanwhile, Scott McKenna, who returned to the starting line-up against Portugal, admits he needs to improve his heading if he is to help with getting the goals Scotland so desperately need next month.

The Aberdeen defender missed an excellent chance to equalise shortly into the second half when he saw his diving header from John McGinn’s corner go just past the post.

“I missed the header and was disappointed for a couple of seconds but once I got back into defence I’d forgotten about it,” he said. “I actually forgot about it until we got back in the changing room and they reminded me. It was a big moment in the game and I should have done better with it.

“It’s something that I need to work on [scoring headers],” he added. “I don’t score enough goals for a centre-back. There’s an onus on us to pop up with goals now and again, especially with the size of us.

“Even back at my club I need to be doing better. I don’t think I’ve scored with my head since I came into the first- team so it’s something I need to work on.”

McKenna, who is suspended for Aberdeen’s visit to league leaders Hearts this weekend, was glad to see club team-mate Gary Mackay-Steven make such an impression after coming on against Portugal.

The winger set up Steven Naismith’s late consolation with a clever back-heel after replacing Oli McBurnie. He could well come into contention for next month’s games.

“He needs to keep doing what he’s been doing for us at Aberdeen,” said McKenna.

“He’s been brilliant for us since the start of the season and if he keeps doing that then he’ll be giving the manager a decision to make.

“I think it certainly helped his case when he came on against Portugal, and doing so well for the goal,” McKenna added.