Sunday 25 September 2016

Steven Naismith: It wasn't a great game to be involved in

Ronnie Esplin

Published 14/06/2015 | 14:10

Steven Naismith (R) and Steven Fletcher of Scotland celebrate the goal scored by Shaun Maloney during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier Group D match between Republic of Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium
Steven Naismith (R) and Steven Fletcher of Scotland celebrate the goal scored by Shaun Maloney during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier Group D match between Republic of Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium

Steven Naismith believes Scotland are "definitely on track" for France 2016 following their 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

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The home side dominated the first half of a hard-fought European Championship qualifier at the Aviva Stadium and deserved to be ahead at the interval with a Jon Walters' goal, although there were claims of offside about his close-range strike.

However, seconds after the break, Shaun Maloney, who scored in the 1-0 win for Scotland when the two sides met at Celtic Park in November, levelled with a shot which deflected off Irish skipper John O'Shea to keep the visitors in third place in Group D with four fixtures remaining.

Gordon Strachan's side stay two points ahead of the Irish but two behind Germany, who thrashed Gibraltar 7-0 in Faro, and three behind pool leaders Poland, who beat Georgia 4-0 in Warsaw.

The next qualification double-header for the Scots is a trip to Georgia on September 4 followed by the visit of the world champions to Hampden Park three days later.

"We are definitely on track," said the Everton forward Naismith. "I have said throughout the campaign that if you win your games at home and take points away from home then you are not going to be far away.

"That (result) comes into that category, especially going 1-0 down as well.

"It was a good away draw that gets us a point and Ireland obviously didn't get the three points at home.

"For the ability in both squads it wasn't a great game to be involved in, there wasn't a lot of good play.

"When we got the ball our passing wasn't good enough. It became a vicious cycle, as they got forward and we were punished for it - although the goal was offside.

"We changed it at half-time and came out and showed a lot more heart and were more in their faces, which got us the goal.

"So overall, taking four points from the two games (against Ireland), you have got be happy."

Midfielder James Morrison targeted one of the top two spots in the section, which would ensure Scotland's qualification for the finals of a major tournament for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France.

"I think it was a good point in the circumstances," he told Press Association Sport.

"Ireland threw a lot of balls into the box which we had to deal with and it was enjoyable to play in.

"I like it when you have to dig deep and the character we had show means we are pleased with that point and it means a lot more (to us), with the head-to-head.

"They (Poland and Germany) will be looking at us. We are breathing down their necks. If we beat Poland we are right in the driving seat.

"That will be a massive game, just like the one against Ireland.

"Anything can happen at Hampden. We have beaten some top teams there before and if we get the Hampden roar we can beat anyone.

"We will keep the run going and keep the spirits high."

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