If we play like that in June, we’ll beat the English, says Stra­chan

Scot­land man­ager claims ac­tion re­play of the Slove­nia game will put us on the front foot

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LINDSAY

GOR­DON STRA­CHAN be­lieves Scot­land are ca­pa­ble of de­feat­ing Eng­land in their Rus­sia 2018 qual­i­fier at Ham­p­den in June – if they can repli­cate the per­for­mance they pro­duced against Slove­nia.

How­ever, the na­tional team man­ager, whose side moved up to fourth place in Group F with their 1-0 win at Ham­p­den on Sun­day evening, has ad­mit­ted his strik­ers need to get more game time ahead of their next match.

Only one of the five for­wards he se­lected in his ini­tial squad for the Canada and Slove­nia dou­ble header – Sh­effield Wed­nes­day player Jor­dan Rhodes – has been fea­tur­ing reg­u­larly for their club side.

Stra­chan opted to play Leigh Grif­fiths in at­tack even though the Celtic man has only made four ap­pear­ances as a re­place­ment this year and his lone front man missed an open goal be­fore hob­bling off in­jured.

The 60-year-old, who would al­most cer­tainly have lost his job if his side had failed to win their fifth group out­ing, was re­lieved when sub­sti­tute Chris Martin net­ted his 88th-minute win­ner.

He be­lieves the likes of Steven Fletcher, Grif­fiths, Mar tin and Steven Nai­smith must play more of­ten be­tween now and the end of the 2016/17 cam­paign to in­crease their prospects of suc­cess against Gareth South­gate’s men.

Asked if Scot­land could beat Eng­land if they can scale the heights they at­tained against Slove­nia, Stra­chan said: “Yeah, but what I would like is for play­ers to get a reg­u­lar game now, a real reg­u­lar game, in the up front area.

“It was a big call [to play Grif­fiths] any­way. We have five strik­ers and only of them gets a game. And Jor­dan has only been get­ting that in the last four weeks. Be­fore that he wasn’t get­ting a game ei­ther.

“I think a Griff that’s played 10 games scores those goals. I do. I think he does that. But it is not easy when you aren’t play­ing reg­u­larly to come out and hit the cross­bar and hit the post and keep go­ing. But he did it.”

Stra­chan, whose side is now two points be­hind sec­ond-placed Slo­vakia, has backed Grif­fiths, who came off in­jured at the start of the sec­ond half, to bounce back from the dis­ap­point­ment.

The 26-year-old, who struck the cross­bar and post with two shots in an open­ing 45 min­utes his side dom­i­nated to­tally, has still not scored a goal at in­ter­na­tional level de­spite mak­ing 12 ap­pear­ances for his coun­try now.

But Stra­chan said: “Griff did a lot of good things for us. You could see the size of their two cen­tre halves. He was get­ting knocked and shoved, but he got back up again. When you see that from fur­ther be­hind, the guys will say: ‘Oh! I’ll join in here!’ I don’t think there was any­body who played badly. Ev­ery­body was fan­tas­tic.”

“He won’t get down­hearted, not at all. How can you get down­hearted by lead­ing the line and lead­ing a per­for­mance that is as good as we have seen here for a long? I think he should be very proud of that.”

Stra­chan, though, con­firmed he will not be speak­ing to Bren­dan Rodgers at Celtic about the pos­si­bil­ity of Grif­fiths get­ting more games once the Park­head club have fi­nally wrapped up their sixth con­sec­u­tive Scot­tish ti­tle. “Bren­dan looks af­ter his team first,” he said.

I don’t think there was any­body who played badly. Ev­ery­one was fan­tas­tic

SEEN SOME­THING YOU LIKE? Gor­don Stra­chan says Scot­land’s late win, cour­tesy of Chris Martin (in­set), was en­cour­ag­ing.

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