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Slovakia defeat ‘is not a step backwards’, says Clarke

The Scotland manager was content with his side's performance in Trnava.

Slovakia defeat ‘is not a step backwards’, says Clarke SNS Group

Steve Clarke has said that his Scotland team should not be too down after their unbeaten run was ended by Slovakia.

A goal from Jan Gregus gave the hosts a 1-0 win in Trnava and left Scotland hoping for results elsewhere, or a win in Israel on Wednesday, if they are to top their Nations League group.

After qualifying for Euro 2020 on Thursday night, the national team were hoping to extend a nine-game unbeaten stretch when they faced Slovakia. It was not to be but Clarke saw a lot to like in the performance.

“[I saw] more than enough,” the Scotland manager said. “When you’ve had such a long unbeaten run then it’s always disappointing when it finishes but it finished in the right way. I thought the team performance was good.

“It was a defeat but it’s not a step backwards. I think there’s a lot to build on.”

Clarke felt Scotland took a while to settle and believed the game was shaped by the fact that both sides payed extra time in midweek while winning their play-off finals.

“Slovakia are a very good team with good players,” he said. “I thought we started a wee bit too deep and we were a little bit hesitant. But that was understandable. It was a long night for us, for both teams, on Thursday and a successful one.

“It took us a little bit of time to find our way in the game but once we did I thought we were really good and created really good chances. On another day, and I’m not going to gripe about lack of luck, their goal was a big deflection and aside from that I thought we defended well.”

Lyndon Dykes’ suspension meant a start for Oli McBurnie in the striker’s position and the Sheffield United player, who has endured some criticism, was frustrated when he failed to score from a number of opportunities. He was defended by his manager, who said that he was fulfilling the role he had been given.

“I think you look at his performance and it was good,” Clarke said. “He did what he was in the team to do, which was to allow Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong to get up and support him.

“He had one very good chance in the first half when he just couldn’t get his shot away, and it was excellent defending, but he just has to keep doing what he’s doing.

“He’s working hard and his effort for the team was first class today.

“The goal, if it comes, would be big for him but he shouldn’t let it weigh too heavy on his shoulders.”