Man­ager rev­els in good night’s work

The Herald on Sunday - - SPORT -

ALEX McLeish in­sisted he didn’t have a fail­ure in his team af­ter the Scot­land head coach en­joyed a de­served and much- needed 4- 0 win in Al­ba­nia.

Af­ter nine call-offs for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, the na­tional team are now 90 min­utes away from a play-off for the 2020 Euro­pean cham­pi­onships.

A win for Scot­land by any score­line against Is­rael at Ham­p­den Park on Tues­day night will see them fin­ish top of their Na­tions League group with nine points.

Scot­land went into this game with a cat­a­logue of in­jury ab­sences and fac­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of fin­ish­ing bot­tom, but they eas­ily put Al­ba­nia to the sword.

Ryan Fraser and James For­rest, twice, broke their scor­ing ducks for Scot­land, while the re­called Steven Fletcher scored a penalty to take his tally for the na­tional side to 10.

Scot­land were helped by Al­ba­nia cap­tain Mergim Mavraj who was sent off mid­way through the first half head­but­ting Ryan Christie.

A de­lighted McLeish said: “I had a good feel­ing about it and I felt if the play­ers brought their per­for­mance level to the game then it would be pos­i­tive and that’s how it turned out. We wanted to try and be as ag­gres­sive as we could rather than side passes. Game man­age­ment. That was very ev­i­dent in the sec­ond half.

“It was an ex­cep­tional per­for­mance from our lads. It looked like a fa­mil­iar­ity and it was hard to sin­gle any­one out. And now we look ahead to Tues­day.”

Celtic’s For­rest scored twice and was man of the match. He is a cer­tainty to start against Is­rael.

McLeish said: “James has been there or there­abouts in the last cou­ple of years for Scot­land. He’s won a lot of caps. He’s been in great scor­ing form for his club and he con­tin­ued that, which was marvel­lous to see.

“He had to do a lot of track­ing back to help Cal­lum Pater­son in the first half, but in the sec­ond he was fan­tas­tic go­ing for­ward. And Ryan Fraser is a player we haven’t had a few times. But he started off so well and took his goal su­perbly.

For­rest ad­mit­ted he’s been wait­ing im­pa­tiently for his first Scot­land goals, and so the Celtic man was de­lighted to bag two in his side’s win last night.

“I’m buzzing,” ad­mit­ted the Celtic man. “I’ve had a few chances to score be­fore, but to score two on my 25th cap, I’m de­lighted and it takes a lot of con­fi­dence into Tues­day. You al­ways have to be­lieve in your abil­ity.”

Fraser too was de­lighted to score his first goal for Scot­land. He said: “Peo­ple said it was go­ing to be an easy win, but Al­ba­nia beat Is­rael. We came here with a lot of ques­tions to an­swer and we did well. I’ve called off my­self, it’s never nice. You al­ways want to play for your coun­try. Scor­ing four goals away from home is never easy.”

Af­ter scor­ing on his first ap­pear­ance for Scot­land in 13 months, Steven Fletcher has tar­geted a win over Is­rael and a Euro 2020 play-off place.

“Some­times you just need that one re­sult,” he said. “It can change ev­ery­thing when you get a win like that. We have a lot of con­fi­dence go­ing into Tues­day.

“I was happy with my per­for­mance. It was tough get­ting up to the tempo, but I en­joyed it and I would love to be in­volved with the young lads again on Tues­day.”

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