Redressing the mistakes of their Aviva extermination is the next item on Steve Clarke’s list of priorities following the way that Scotland defeated Ukraine to head the Irish Nations League group.
Wednesday’s night’s 3-0 defeat of the top seeds of the group was a complete opposite to their trip in Dublin in June and in terms of scoreline and territorial.
Lydon Dykes, who believes that the Scots still have a debt to Ireland one – was substituted to complete a brace John McGinn’s goal in the 70th minute of the game and wreak havoc with the first loss of the season on the Ukrainian team who gave up on its World Cup qualification ambitions in the playoffs in June.
Draws in the coming five days of their remaining matches with Ireland in Hampden on Saturday, and the Ukraine game in Krakow will cement Scotland’s status as the group B1 winners and ensure their place at the top for the next series , which will take place in 2024.
Their strength will not hinder from the Tartan Army from seeking revenge against Ireland on their homeland.
If Ukraine be able to avoid losing to Armenia, Ireland require victory against their Celtic relatives to prevent Tuesday’s game against the bottom seeds becoming an effort to avoid being relegated into League C.
“We take a break to recuperate and rest, and prepare for a difficult battle in the next game against Ireland,” Clarke surmised about the consequences of sinking the Ukrainian Yellow Submarine.
“Obviously that we went to the area in the summer but didn’t give ourselves the full justice we deserve. We’re going to be able to show ourselves the justice we deserve on Saturday.
“Is Ireland the perfect game for us? With no disrespect, I’d prefer to take on San Marino. But, wait, it is a different game. We hope to have the same performance and a similar outcome.
“These boys are determined to succeed for their nation. They’ve proven that in several games. Sometimes, in football, things don’t take a turn for the better.
“You have difficult times, but the important issue is to react to these situations.
“We’ve responded this evening, but we must respond to the same on Saturday as we’d like to be in a position of to travel into Poland in order to take on Ukraine in the final game in which we stand the chance to be at the top of the group.”
Clarke will almost certainly be without the star defensive player Nathan Patterson, who was injured in the first period with an injury to his knee, the severity of the injury will be determined after scans.
“It doesn’t look like an ideal choice for Nathan but fingers crossed the odds aren’t all that terrible,” said the Scottish supremo.
“But I was very happy to see Aaron Hickey who came on. Everyone forgets he’s just 20 and probably seemed more like an international player following that.
“He got into the game very well. It was not an easy task to play in Ukraine against Mykhaylo Mudryk, who lots of people are watching. Mudryk has a good speed, however Aaron played well against him.
“We have a strong strength in depth. That’s the thing we’re trying to develop..
“You require a strong squad clearly when you play three games in a small amount period.” QPR striker Dykes stated after the double: “This win gives us huge confidence.
“We’ve received a trophy to present to Ireland in addition to that, as our last match against Ireland was not at the level we’d like to be at.
“We put our faith into this game, and we will make sure that we score three points.
“We were determined to prove that everyone was wrong, and to prove that we were able to do better in the end (against Ukraine in the summer).
“We needed to get our heads back to the field of training and do our best.
“We’re focussed on the team right now, and it’s a great start to 3 matches.”
Ireland’s sole chance of securing the top spot Stephen Kenny set as a goal is to earn six points. Hopefully that the two other games will end with draw.
This unlikely scenario could win them the prize pool – and promotion and an Euro playoff a given – because of the head-to head rules that apply to countries locked in points.