Scotland boss Steve Clarke relieved to secure victory in the Czech Republic
Steve Clarke admitted Scotland were on a hiding to nothing as they squeezed past the Czech Republic’s second string in Olomouc.
Scotland were made heavy favourites to pick up the win at the Andruv Stadion after the hosts were forced to scramble a squad of players together with just 48 hours notice after a coronavirus crisis ruled out their original group.
The Czechs started with nine debutants and had under-18s coach David Holoubek in charge after Jaroslav Silhavy and his first-choice senior team were forced into quarantine.
But they took a shock lead 11 minutes into the Nations League clash when Jakub Pesek ghosted past the static Scottish defence to score the opener.
Thankfully for Clarke and his side, there was no further slip-ups and they hit back with Lyndon Dykes’ maiden international goal on just his second appearance for the Dark Blues, with Ryan Christie slotting home his second penalty in as many games to seal a 2-1 lead.
Yet there were some nervy moments late on and Scotland had goalkeeper David Marshall to thank for some vital stops to ensure they maintain a five-match unbeaten streak that stretches back 11 months.
They now have momentum going into October’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Israel but Clarke knows not everyone will be so enthused after his side followed up Friday’s drab 1-1 draw with next month’s opponents with another unconvincing performance.
“It would have been a fairy-tale night for them – for us, we were always on a hiding to nothing,” he told Sky Sports news after the game.
Moving on to his press conference, Clarke added: “Everyone said we had to come here and get the win and we got it. We showed good reaction to adversity when we went down.
“Listen I knew when it all unfolded over the weekend that it was going to be a difficult game for us.
“The Czech Republic were going to play the game of their lives. For us, it was always going to be a difficult night but we got the win.
“When everybody puts you under so much pressure to get the win then that’s all you have to do.”
Clarke made five changes to his side – including dropping Arsenal star Kieran Tierney to the bench – as he stuck with the 3-4-2-1 system which proved so unpopular with the Tartan Army during Friday’s Hampden draw.
But the manager said: “I’m not looking at vindication. I wanted to have another look at the system. I wanted to look at certain players in the system tonight.
“We’ve had two games with the same system. We now have three weeks before I name the next squad so I’ll go away and analyse the game before deciding what’s the best way forward for this group of players.”
Dykes has capped off a dream month as the new £2million QPR recruit followed up his international debut last week with his first goal, steering home from a delicious Liam Palmer cross.
“Lyndon was good again tonight,” added Clarke. “I was pleased with him. He got his goal, which was a really good goal. It was the first time we’d got the quality on the ball.
“We got a switch of play and got Liam Palmer free down the right. A good ball in and Lyndon finished between the sticks.
“It’s good centre-forward play. He tired later on in the game but it was another big performance from Lyndon.”