By Keiran Fleming
Scotland Vs Russia
Scotland started extremely well in the first 10 minutes of the game. This was capped off by a John McGinn tap in after the Russian keeper spilled the ball. However, after a bright start from McGinn, McBurnie and Fraser it went downhill from there.
There were some major players missing from the centre of defence and it showed. I doubt O’Donnell will start for Scotland again and Mulgrew is at this point way past his best. With the likes of McKenna and Souttar all out for this international break the defence is extremely weak. An uncharacteristic mistake from Robertson led to the first goal for Russia and an O’Donnell own goal gave the Russians the lead.
The less said about Belgium the better – you can talk about the opponents being world class which they are, but as pointed out by many – they’d didn’t have to get out of second gear to put Scotland away at ease.
Pieces of class such as Kevin De Bruyne’s goal are hard to prevent – but all three other goals came from simple mistakes like not making a tactical foul, having just one man back to defend a counter from your own foul and failing to stay on your man at a ball into the box. When you’re playing as the underdog it’s crucial you do these simpler things right, as you are often punished.
Criticism shouldn’t come too heavily on Steve Clarke yet – we all knew this would take time. However, his players will rightly take some stick – and you’d have to feel they couldn’t possibly offer up any argument to that.
The qualifiers will not offer passage to the Euro’s now – it’s almost completely mathematically finished as a possibility, but Russia’s late winner against Kazakhstan probably brought any hopes of a unpredictable fight back crashing down to earth.
The aims for the rest of the campaign should now be simple – establish a system and ideally (Should injuries not prevent it too much) work out a core of 13-14 players you want to really gel. Gain as much confidence and systematic fluidity in the remaining fixtures and aim to finish above Kazakhstan – hopefully all suitably preparing Scotland for the Nation’s League Play-offs, which if a success, mean we can forget all about this group.
Tunnocks Wafer Challenge Cup
It’s fair to say there were a shocks over the weekend. St Mirren U21’s are the only Colt team left after they beat Stirling Albion 1-0. Both Dundee clubs were knocked out, United continued their dismal penalty form by losing to Arbroath on penalties and Dundee suffered a bigger even shock at the hands of Elgin City who beat them 2-1.
Falkirk suffered defeat to their League 1 rivals Raith. If Falkirk are still not playing to their potential they can expect a tough play-off run rather than a straight promotion into the Championship.
Clyde also surprised Championship side Queen of the South with a 3-2 win. This should give Clyde a confidence boost considering their poor start to the league campaign. This was impressive not just because of the win, but the nature of it – coming from behind and the fact that comeback was ignited by an over-head kick.
Hearts U21’s were knocked out by Waterford from Ireland. This year seems to be the most likely year that a non-Scottish team wins the Challenge cup with a third of those in the fourth round coming from elsewhere in the UK.
Team of the Week
There are 2 teams we could’ve chosen this week Clyde or Elgin. We’ve gone with Elgin because they caused the biggest upset. Dundee have just been relegated and are looking to be promoted straight away. Elgin currently lie 7th in League 2 and were able to put 2 goals past Dundee which is extremely impressive.
Player of the Week
The only obvious Player is Regan Hendry for Raith. He managed to convert 2 pens against Falkirk keeper Robbie Mutch. One of the penalties did seem saveable and Mutch could have got his hand to it. However, it wouldn’t have made a difference as Falkirk were already one down. The fact that Hendry had the confidence to finish off the 2 pens just shows how prolific he could be.