Scotland defeat to Ireland a ‘bit of a head scratcher’, Steve Clarke admits

Steve Clarke admits Scotland’s dispiriting Nations League defeat by Republic of Ireland was “a little bit of a head scratcher” as he prepares to face Armenia.

The Tartan Army had hoped the 2-0 home win over Tuesday’s opponents in their opening Group B1 game had got Scotland back on track following their World Cup play-off loss to Ukraine, but it was a comfortable 3-0 win for the Irish  on Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference from Ireland where he confirmed he had “significant” injury worries for the trip to Yerevan, Clarke initially responded to a question about Scotland’s performance in Dublin by saying: “Ireland played better on the day”.

And when asked later why the performance had regressed from the Armenia game, he said:  “The million dollar question, I don’t know.

“Football is a strange game at times. Sometime you get a result that you don’t really expect. Probably the reaction to the game on Saturday is as much a case of, ‘where did that come from?’

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“It was a little bit of a head scratcher. Obviously disappointing on Saturday. We will focus on the next game, Armenia.

“As we always do we will get together as a group, speak about things, show some things on video and try to get them on the training pitch and moving again for the next game.”

The former West Brom and Kilmarnock boss was also questioned about the criticism he and his team received after the defeat in Dublin and against Ukraine.

He said: “People can write and say what they want. There is nothing I can do to control that, the most important thing is what we do next.”

Despite a double-header against  group leaders Ukraine looming in the September fixtures, Clarke refused to attach added importance to the game against Armenia.

He said: “There is pressure on every game in football when you are representing your country. There is pressure in every game in football.

“I don’t think there is any more pressure on this game than there would be normally.

“It is important in the context of the Nations League because we want to go to the September games with a realistic chance of topping the group so it is important from that point of view.

“It is always nice when you win. Everyone always feels a little bit better when you win.

“I hope the players play as well as they can play because if they play as well as they can play and take their A game to the pitch it is a game that we should win.

“As long as we get one more than the opposition that will be enough to get three points and that’s what we will aim to do.”

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Clarke confirmed there will be “some rotation” for matchday three as he contends with injuries.

He said: “We have some significant doubts. We will assess before we travel but we have  significant injuries that we have to deal with. No names.”

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