Red-Faced Winners Scotland Need To Refocus After Mistake


We wouldn’t be Scotland if we didn’t slip up against group minnows Gibraltar. Thankfully the embarrassment of conceding to Gibraltar’s first ever competitive goal didn’t and won’t comeback to haunt us!

You can see what Gordon Strachan was trying to do with his formation and starting line-up but it was pretty naive and you felt that it could cause our defensive department problems.

Playing three at the back is fine but not needed against a newly qualified UEFA member. So Strachan tried to do something a bit more radical and have one centre-half and two fullbacks. His captain Scott Brown was the selected to sit ahead of Russell Martin (Scotland’s centre-half).

Now the issues arose because in Andrew Robertson and Alan Hutton you have two very attack minded fullbacks. Because they were playing lowly Gibraltar they felt they could bomb forward whenever they wanted.

Scott Brown has been used as a holding midfielder at Celtic, but he’s often partnered with Nir Biton ahead of the Celtic defence. That means that Brown has more license to go forward and that if he steps forward he has someone on hand to help him out.

So against Gibraltar, at times early on in the first half at Hampden it was often just Russell Martin back by himself. Now that isn’t the worst thing in the world if the others around him could sense danger and snuff it out and get back to help out when needed.

In that formation you also need players like Ikechi Anya, Shaun Maloney, Matt Ritchie and James Morrison to burst a gut to get back when required.

As the Scots struggled to get used to their new system, Gibraltar took heart from the Scotland’s sloppy passing and ineffective attacking play.

The men from the Mediterranean Rock started to go forward and gave Scotland a shock when they nearly took the lead in the seventh minute. Joseph Chipolina’s cross come shot almost sneaked past David Marshall, who was madly back peddling before the clawing the ball away from his goal-line.

That should have been the wake up call for Scotland’s defence. Alan Hutton was caught nonchalantly walking back and that’s where the danger came from. Brown also didn’t come across and cover effectively.

Scotland then got off the mark themselves on the eighteenth minute, when Gibraltar’s goalkeeper decided to fly into Shaun Maloney when the ball was going out of play. Maloney dusted himself down and scored from the resulting penalty.

That opening goal should have settled the nerves of the Tartan Army but alas this is Scotland and Strachan’s gung-ho tactics would be exposed by the mainly part-time opposition within ninety seconds of the restart.

Gibraltar broke upfield and while Andrew Robertson (who seemed shell-shocked for much of the opening half) had tucked inside he allowed Lee Casciaro plenty of space on the left. A nice ball cut across the Hampden turf into the area that Casciaro was running into. Ikechi Anya was caught daydreaming and even his pace couldn’t see him make up the ground and Hampden was silenced as the Gibraltarian policeman  struck the ball expertly past Marshall.

The fact is Gibraltar deserved that goal and Scotland deserved to concede it!

Now Scotland would then retake the lead and go into the break four goals to one up. The attacking players finally started to tick and create many chances. Striker Steven Fletcher finally ended a forty-six year wait for a Scottish hattrick.

Strachan would start the second half, with the formation that should of started the game with. He brought on another central defender in Gordon Greer and they played with a attacking 4-1-3-2.

For me, that’s how we should have started. That or have Darren Fletcher partnering Brown ahead of Martin.

The starting tactics were grossly enthusiastic and seemed to confuse our players more than anything else. Our opening goals were more because of the mistakes that they made rather than what we created for ourselves.

Scotland proved that when pressed that the Gibraltarian’s were prone to become rushed and make mistakes, yet we didn’t press them enough in all areas of the park.

We got the three points and that’s all that matters. Scotland finished the fixture six-one winners. Yet as Scots we still think of that one more than the six.

Hopefully it’s a timely slip that gets the Scottish players and management team refocused. We have only lost twice in the last twelve months (Away to World Champions Germany & in a friendly against England). In the same time frame we’ve now won five and drawn two!

As a nation we are currently optimistic and that feeling has been a long time coming. But in a group where Germany, Poland and Ireland are equally on-form and Scotland can’t afford to become complacent.

Gordon Strachan needs to remind his players that errors can cost us our plans of going to France next summer. He now has a great example to point to and make sure his side don’t do that in Dublin come the end of the season.

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