Steve Clarke labelled Scotland’s 3-0 defeat to Ireland as “damning” but refused to criticize his players after their second defeat in three games.
In their first meeting since 2015, Scotland were second best for much of the Nations League clash. Clarke’s side struggled to cope with Ireland’s intensity all evening, with Stephen Kenny making five changes, including a first start for player-of-the-match Michael Obafemi.
“The defeat was so damning,” said Clarke.
“This group of players have done fantastically for me and their country. We’ve had two big blows in the space of three games. It's the first time in a long time that it’s happened to us.
“Ireland deserved to win, they were on the front foot, and we didn’t cope with it. We were quite poor.”
Aston Villa’s John McGinn fired wide twice early on, and that was the closest Scotland came to finding the net, as they suffered their first defeat of the campaign.
After Alan Browne and Troy Parrott put Ireland two up in the first half, any hope of a Scotland comeback was ended on 50 minutes as Michael Obafemi’s thunderbolt sailed past Craig Gordon.
The hosts saw the game out comfortably and picked up their first competitive home win since June 2019, as well as Stephen Kenny’s first competitive home win in charge.
“You have to look at everything,” Clarke continued.
“Today was different from Ukraine. We didn’t make the right choices at the right times in the game. We gave a soft goal away from a corner which puts you on the back foot. Ireland got life from that. We have a lot to look at and a lot to analyse.”
After making six changes for Wednesday’s victory over Armenia, Clarke was more conservative this evening and made just two. Scott McTominay & Grant Hanley replaced Stuart Armstrong and John Souttar.
Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour came on at the break, while Armstrong, Ross Stewart and Jacob Brown were introduced on the hour mark. All failed to make much of an impact however, as Scotland rarely threatened in the second half from both set-pieces and open play.
“The couple of changes today obviously didn’t work,” Clarke added.
“I don’t think it was about changes in personnel, it was more about something else. I need to go away and have a good think about it. Hopefully I can come up with a team that can go to Yerevan and get three points.”
Portions of the travelling support could be heard booing their team at full-time. Clarke accepted that the performance wasn’t good enough and admitted that the morale in the dressing room was on the floor after the defeat.
“The supporters travel and spend a lot of money, we appreciate that,” said the Scotland manager.
“Today was not our day. Hopefully next time we travel we can be better and give them the type of results we have given them over the past couple of years. It was a poor team performance all-round.
“Sometimes after a game you just have to hold your counsel, have sleep and think about it. (Morale is) as flat as a pancake. They are at a loss to explain why the performance was so poor.”
Meanwhile Scotland skipper Andy Robertson didn't hold back as he offered an apology to Scotland fans.
“Nowhere near good enough,” Robertson told Premier Sports. “And we have now said that twice in 10 days, which isn’t us.
“We have let the manager down, which is so disappointing for us. He set us up in a way and we never carried that out.
“Every one of us lost our individuals battles which can’t happen in these games.
“Second balls went to them, they were winning the tackles and they had the chances. And when it goes like that the result is only going one way.”
Robertson understood the frustration of the 2,500 travelling fans as he looked for Scotland to reset ahead of their trip to Yerevan to play Armenia on Tuesday as he added: “To the fans behind the goal booing us off, completely correct.
“We know they travel a long way, we know they pay a lot of money and that performance is nowhere near good enough in a Scotland jersey.
“We will need to assess as a team, we will need to assess individually and we have to hit the reset button because everything was good last year, but this year the performances haven’t quite been up to scratch as of yet.
“We need to hit the reset button and go again because we were in a good place before that.
“We knew they were under pressure, two defeats in the first two and they were probably getting questioned. We had to weather the storm but we didn’t do it.
“We gave them easy corners, win big tackles which got the crowd up and that set the tone for the game. And unfortunately we didn’t get into the game until we were 3-0 down.
“The overall performance was nowhere near good enough and not good enough for a Scotland jersey.”