5 things we learned from Scotland’s win over Slovakia

06 October 2017 09:46

Scotland kept their World Cup play-off hopes alive with a narrow 1-0 win over Slovakia on Thursday night.

Here Press Association Sport takes a look at five things we learned from their Hampden Park win.

The dream lives on for Gordon Strachan

When his team took just four points from their opening four games, it appeared the Scotland boss’ time in the Hampden hot-seat was rapidly approaching its end.

But Thursday night’s last-gasp win means Strachan’s men have now dropped just two points from the last 15 available and that remarkable fight-back leaves them just one win from guaranteeing themselves a play-off spot.

Chris Martin has gone from zero to hero

Scotland’s winner may correctly have been given as a Martin Skrtel own goal but Derby frontman Martin can feel a great deal of satisfaction after forcing the Slovakia skipper to put through his own net.

A player who was booed by the Tartan Army as he came on as a substitute against Slovenia back in March before grabbing the goal that turned Scotland’s campaign around made another huge impact on Thursday as his physicality finally allowed the Scots to pin down their 10-man visitors.

Charlie Mulgrew and Christophe Berra pairing up well

Central defence has long been regarded as the main weak spot in Scotland’s armour but again against the Slovakians Mulgrew and Berra proved they can be a solid partnership.

The win over Slovakia was Scotland’s fourth clean sheet in five games but they will have to keep it just as tight on Sunday if they are to finish the job.

Darren Fletcher still has a role to play

Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher finished the Slovakia game with his head bandaged
Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher finished the Slovakia game with his head bandaged (Jane Barlow/PA)

The former Manchester United midfielder remains Scotland’s most experienced player but their have been question marks over just how long the 33-year-old can carry on cutting it at international level.

However, tasked with standing in for the injured Scott Brown, Fletcher put on a real captain’s display as Scotland struck late against Slovakia, with his calm leadership crucial in ensuring his team-mates did not lose their heads as the seconds slipped away.

Barry Bannan misses big opportunity

Midfielder Barry Bannan had a quiet game against Slovakia
Midfielder Barry Bannan had a quiet game against Slovakia (Jane Barlow/PA)

Strachan was convinced to throw the Sheffield Wednesday playmaker into the side in place of the injured Stuart Armstrong after watching Bannan run the show for his club side against Leeds last weekend. But the 27-year-old struggled to reproduce that Hillsborough display at Hampden.

He trudged through a flat first-half performance and, while he was more energetic after the break, he may have now played himself out of contention for Sunday’s all-or-nothing clash with Slovenia.

Source: By PA Sport Staff