Edinburgh Evening News

Clarke fronts up to boos after Northern Ireland loss at home


Steve Clarke says there's no need for total doom and gloom after Scotland's 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland, writes Ben Banks.

Boos met the team at fulltime as Michael O'Neill's side dug out a narrow victory, Northern Ireland's first win in Scotland for 50 years at Hampden. A Nathan Patterson error at the back allowed Conor Bradley to fire a strike beyond Angus Gunn.

Lewis Ferguson had a header saved late in the game, but the Tartan Army were left frustrated by a lack of clear chances made by the hosts. Gibraltar and Finland are next in warm-up matches in the summer before Germany in the tournament opener.

Speaking post-match, Clarke fronted up to a question about fans at Hampden launching boos at full-time. He insisted friendly matches might not be their specialist subject, but competitiv­e action can bring the best out his side.

"It is what it is,” was his response when asked about the booing.

He added: "We had a lot of the game. We tried out best to open them up. It was difficult to find space in between the lines. For us it was a totally different type of game to what we have had recently when you are playing against the top teams and they will open the pitch.

"Tonight we needed a bit of craft and a bit of guile towards the final third of the pitch, and we didn't find that. That is basically why we lose the game. It's probably fair to say we are not very good at friendlies. We don't win too many of them, so let's hope when we get to the competitiv­e stuff in June we are ready to go. I am sure we will be. We have to be better at the bits that weren't so good. I will assess both games, and the biggest thing for us is to be ready for June. I'd rather be sitting in my position than, unfortunat­ely, Wales who have just been knocked out on penalty kicks. It's not all doom and gloom."

Captain and Liverpool star Andy Robertson came off the pitch with an injury. Clarke says it's now for the Anfield club to assess the situation. The head coach said: "He's just come off the pitch. Let the injury takes its course. He'll go back to his club, they will assess it and hopefully it isn't too serious. I don't know. Not for me to comment on.

On the performanc­e, the Scotland head coach added to the TV cameras: "OK. Decent. We probably had to create a bit more in the final third. Northern Ireland got the deflection for their goal and that gives them a platform to defend.

"Sometimes in the bad moments you learn more. You learn a lot about the players and your team. You look at what you're going to do in the summer. The time to peak is June.

"I don't see signs that things are going terribly wrong. Tonight was decided on a small margin. We have to better and move on to our next games. I want everybody fit and all ready to go.

"I will watch the games, watch the lads play for their clubs, make my selection – hopefully the right selection – and then we go to the tournament. We've had a little chat after the game. I won't speak to them again en masse until we are back together in June.”

 ?? ?? Scotland’s Steve Clarke has had to calm some fans after losing 1-0 to Northern Ireland
Scotland’s Steve Clarke has had to calm some fans after losing 1-0 to Northern Ireland
 ?? ?? Clarke’s side will need to improve before Euro 2024 begins in June
Clarke’s side will need to improve before Euro 2024 begins in June

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