SCOTS ARE MAK­ING GREIGHT STRIDES

Fraser’s strike means run with­out de­feat is our best for 32 years

Daily Record - - SPORT - KEITH JACK­SON AT HAM­P­DEN

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

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