In­abil­ity to weather storms now wor­ry­ing trend

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - SPORT - BY CHRIS CRIGHTON

When the fix­ture fates set the paths of Scot­land and Rus­sia cross­ing at both rugby and foot­ball on con­sec­u­tive days, it pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for the Scots to at least sneak a vic­tory on ag­gre­gate.

Lips may have been pursed when Adam Hast­ings’s last-play try was taken off the board by a TMO re­play, but a 61-0 lead from the first leg still seemed just about enough for the hap­less round-ball team to de­fend.

But while the Scot­land squad in the Far East mon­i­tor weather alerts in the hope of avoid­ing an en­forced 0-0 draw, their un­her­alded foot­balling coun­ter­parts set about weath­er­ing the storm in pur­suit of an equally un­likely blank score­line.

And for a while, it looked as if the winds were blow­ing in Scot­land’s favour.

Though rav­aged by in­jury to the point of start­ing Mikey Devlin – ar­guably not among the best two Scot­tish cen­tre­backs avail­able to Derek McInnes, let alone Steve Clarke – the Scots de­fence ren­dered Rus­sia vir­tu­ally shot­less in the first half.

Alas, like a front-row for­ward, Scot­land’s de­fend­ers know all too well that they will in­evitably have to deal with a col­lapse at some point, but un­like in that other code they are un­able to hun­ker down and start over.

This was the fourth time in this group that Scot­land have con­ceded twice inside less than eight min­utes, and the fourth time the team has lost by three goals or more.

It is not that Scot­land have lost so many matches – that much was only to ex­pected from the day the draw was made – but the sever­ity of the beat­ings

they are tak­ing which is alarm­ing.

This run of fix­tures against the top two seeds was al­ways likely to be chas­ten­ing, but over­all Scot­land have been truly com­pet­i­tive for so few of the 360 min­utes as to leave Clarke won­der­ing what it would take to end his side’s run of de­feats.

At this point, his best chance may well be a ty­phoon.

De­fender Mikey Devlin

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