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BIG ECK ADMITS NERVES

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ALEX McLEISH admitted his players were nervous as they struggled to overcome San Marino 2-0 in the Euro 2020 qualifier in Rimini last night.

Norwich City’s former Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean gave the Scots a fourth-minute advantage with a neat header.

But it took another SEVENTY minutes before McLeish’s men could add to that early boost when Johnny Russell blasted high into the net following a smart run and cross from substitute James Forrest on the right.

It was hardly an inspiring display by the international side, as Scotzine reported last night, and there was an obvious fall-out of confidence following the 3-0 humbling from Kazakhstan in the Astana Arena on Thursday afternoon.

McLeish saw his side grind out the three points against the nation ranked rock-bottom in the FIFA listings.

The Scots boss, speaking to Sky Sports, said: “We started really well, played well getting the first goal early. We tried to push for another and because we didn’t get it we were a wee bit nervy.

“I know it’s been a tough few days for everybody and when we got the second goal I think we saw the team relax and go on to create four or five other chances.

“We got a whirlwind start by the Kazakhs, I think it left a few of us shell-shocked. We’ve dealt with the second game, if not fantastically, but it was professional.”

HIT…Johnny Russell thumps in the second goal with San Marino defenders helpless.

MISS…Stuart Armstrong sees his close-range drive tipped away by keeper Elia Benetinni.

MISS…the howler of the night as Marc McNulty flashes a header wide of the post.

McLeish accepted that the travelling support, who displayed their anger at the SFA throughout the 90 minutes, expected more goals, but insisted the most important aim was to win.

He added: “We spoke about quality at the beginning of the game, then it was surprising to see a few passes go astray. We expected the level a bit better than today, but maybe the rest in Kazakhstan impacted a few people, as well.

“I think [the fans]were looking for five or six, to be honest, and we accept that. It was obviously very important we won the game and dealt with it.

“In the end, we should have had four or five.”

DISMAY…Stuart Armstrong shows his disappointment after failing to score. Ryan Fraser looks on.

McLeish believed substitute Marc McNulty, on loan at Hibs from Reading, could have had a hat-trick after he came on as a 34th-minute substitute for the crocked Callum Paterson.

The lively frontman got into smart positions, but could claim his international breakthrough goal. He will never get a better chance than in the 77th minute when Forrest laid one on a plate with a delicate cross in from the touchline.

McNulty, all alone on the six-yard line, inexplicably headed wide of the far upright with only the keeper to beat.

Scotland can now take a break from the European competition until they face Cyprus at Hampden on June 8 and travel to Brussels to take on Belgium three days later.

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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