SCOTS ARE MAKING GREIGHT STRIDES
Fraser’s strike means run without defeat is our best for 32 years
IT’S been 32 years since Scotland last achieved this – an eighth consecutive game without defeat.
Keep it to yourself but they missed out on qualification for the European Championships that year too when the rest of the continent was marvelling at the skills of Marco van Basten all over West Germany.
With a bit of luck it will be Lyndon Dykes who’s knocking them dead next year, just as he did to the Czechs last night when he set up a superb winner for Ryan Fraser before the visitors had even worked out exactly what this big Aussie was doing leading Scotland’s line.
Soon the whole world will know more about our very own Crocodile Dumfries but for now
SCOTLAND..... CZECH R.....
he continues to catch the opposition cold.
And even though he didn’t add to his two international goals in this Nations League victory, he contributed hugely to a result which sends Steve Clarke’s side four points clear at top of the section.
Dykes also picked up a needless yellow card which rules him out of next month’s trip to Slovakia in this group but, fingers crossed, he’ll be leading the charge in Serbia where Scotland’s Euro 2020 fate will be decided once and for all.
On this form, Clarke cannot do without him but then again, this is a Scotland side which is beginning to deliver surprise and delight in equal measure.
Clarke was as good as his word in terms of keeping his tinkering to a minimum. Back in came Old Firm rivals Callum McGregor and Ryan Jack, with Celtic’s Greg Taylor also filling in for skipper Andy Robertson at wing-back.
Neil Lennon and Steven Gerrard might not have liked what they were seeing so close to their resumption of hostilities this weekend but it looked decent enough to the rest of us.
Trouble was, they were not coming up against the Czech G string that his lads only just managed to push to one side in Olomouc after being cobbled together with 24 hours’ notice.
Nope, this was very much the A squad – a group of players talented enough to have already qualified to play at Hampden in next summer’s Euros, no matter if we make it to our own party or not via next month’s stop-off in Belgrade.
The Czechs looked lively too in the opening exchanges with David Marshall pulling off his first save from an early free-kick.
Then some excellent lastditch defending from Andy Considine was required to dig Stephen O’Donnell out a hole after the full-back’s slack pass allowed a counter-attack.
But just when it looked like
it might become a long night, Scotland got up the pitch in numbers and forced a goal.
This time it was O’Donnell who got the Czechs on to the back foot, winning a tackle high up the pitch and nudging the ball to Dykes who turned to draw a foul out of his marker but stayed on his feet regardless to slip a perfect through ball into the path of Fraser.
The wee man scampered onto it in a flash to caress a low shot under keeper Tomas Vaclik and slip the Scots into a fifth-minute lead.
Now let’s be honest, this breakthrough came much to the surprise of everyone inside the stadium with the possible exception of Clarke who seems to be getting perfectly used to this kind of thing even if the rest of us may take a while.
The Czechs had certainly not seen it coming and they spent much of the rest of the half attempting to level things up.
Between them, playmaker Lukas Provod and dangerman Matej Vydra were causing particular concern but when their big chance arrived, midway through the half, Vydra shanked wide of open goal from six yards.
The rest of the time, Scotland defended resolutely and with a great deal of discipline which made them almost impossible to slice through.
And at the other end, they also carried a sizeable threat in the shape of little pocket rocket Fraser who fired one wide soon after and another one over the top in 34 minutes after being released by John McGinn’s perfectly measured through ball.
Fraser really ought to have buried the second one but, even so, Scotland’s players went inside at the break a goal to the good and with a confident spring in their step, if not quite a swagger.
The Czechs came out firing again at the start of the second half with Vydra drilling one across the face of goal and wide of Marshall’s left-hand post, after Scott McTominay was pinned down and isolated inside the Scotland box at the end of a swift, slick counter.
Then Dykes pushed his luck with a sly stamp on Vladimir
Coufal. The striker was lucky to get away with just a booking.
Still, at that moment, they had enough on their plate just trying to quell the threat in front of them and Clarke opted for fresh legs when he replaced Dykes with Oli McBurnie for the final quarter. Fraser soon followed, with Kenny McLean coming on from the bench.
There was an incredible late escape when Tomas Soucek scooped one over the bar from five yards. Then, at the other end, McBurnie rattled woodwork for the third time in his Scotland career with a shot from 20 yards which very nearly brought the house down.
McBurnie’s day will doubtless come. But Scotland’s is getting closer all the while.
RYAN AND CRYIN’ Fraser celebrates as Czech stopper Ondrej Kudela reacts to goal
CZECH THIS OUT Ryan Fraser slots early shot past goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik to boost Scotland