Sunday 11 December 2016

Scotland boss Gordon Strachan delighted with 'outstanding' Charlie Mulgrew

Andy Newport

Published 06/06/2015 | 12:18

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan
Reuters / Russell Cheyne
Livepic
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan Reuters / Russell Cheyne Livepic

Scotland boss Gordon Strachan hopes victory over Qatar will have given his squad the energy boost they need to power past the Republic of Ireland next week.

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The Dark Blues manager put out a reasonably strong side against the 2022 World Cup hosts as they claimed a 1-0 Easter Road win.

It was a useful workout for the likes of keeper David Marshall, Ikechi Anya - who started in an unfamiliar right-back slot - Gordon Greer, Craig Forsyth and goalscorer Matt Richie four weeks after their Sky Bet Championship duties came to an end.

The Leith clash also allowed Charlie Mulgrew and James Forrest to stretch their legs at international level after long spells out injured.

It was not a vintage display against Qatar as the Scots struggled to raise the tempo.

But Strachan hopes his men have shaken off the rustiness as they now look ahead to next Saturday's crucial Euro 2016 qualifier in Dublin.

He said: "I thought the energy levels were down a little bit - they needed that game.

"But you need to know that we trained twice on Thursday. We did that to try and bring everyone up to speed.

"Normally ahead of an international game you wouldn't think of training twice.

"The first session was very intensive in the morning and then we had things to do in the afternoon.

"So you have to take that into consideration. But it needed to be done."

Qatar had beaten Slovenia and Algeria and drawn with Northern Ireland in the build-up to their visit to Edinburgh but Scotland never looked in trouble.

Steven Naismith snatched at a handful of chances but could not do any better than hit a post following James McArthur's driving run.

With the match developing, some light relief was provided by the appearance of a streaker midway through the first half.

But while the Qataris were wondering quite what was going on, Scotland took advantage as Ritchie rifled a loose ball home from the edge of the box.

There was more sweat and toil after the break but little more quality as the game was bogged down by a string of substitutions.

Strachan said: "At times I liked a lot of it. At other times I felt we had lads who were rusty because they hadn't had games. But generally I liked what I saw.

"We created chances but we had a very small forward line so it was a case of working the ball forward.

"Any crosses we made were behind the forwards. We worked away and although it was rusty at times I thought our movement was good. I was pleased with a lot of the lads.

"Matt Ritchie scored a good goal but I thought 90 percent of his passing was sharp. Like most of them there was ten percent which went missing."

After watching Steven Fletcher and Andy Robertson suffer bumps during final practice on Thursday, Strachan was left watching through the cracks in his fingers as striker Naismith collided with visiting keeper Amine Lecomte just after half-time.

Thankfully for the Hampden chief, the Everton man did not look to have suffered any lasting damage.

"We're all right," he said when asked about the condition of his team. "Naisy got a bit of a bump but he's a hardy wee character. I always felt that, unless something really strange had happened he would get up."

"The two guys who were taken off yesterday (Fletcher and Robertson) got to the ground and they felt that they could play. It was our decision not to play them."

Strachan will now turn his thoughts to toppling Martin O'Neill's team in the Aviva Stadium but he admits the display of Mulgrew - back in a Scotland jersey for the first time since November - has given him food for thought.

"I just thought Charlie was outstanding, absolutely outstanding," he said. "We have got choices at centre-back, but Charlie was excellent there. He can play in many positions as you know."

It was a special night for Strachan as he returned to the home of Hibernian, his boyhood team.

But the Scotland boss joked his mum Catherine enjoyed the occasion more following the appearance of the naked pitch invader.

"Well, I would imagine my mother will be booking her tickets for next week now," he said. "She's only seen me in four games, but that is probably the most excited she has been at a game."

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