Dunfermline Athletic

March Misery For Scotland

Date: Wednesday, 27th Mar 2024

The month of March saw Scotland play two friendly matches in their penultimate training camp prior to Euro 2024 beginning in June. Steve Clarke`s men faced the Netherlands in Amsterdam before a home `Battle of Britain` clash with Northern Ireland at Hampden Park.

The first match saw the Tartan Army travel to Holland, to face the country ranked 6th in the FIFA World Rankings. A tough test it would be for Scotland, but one which the nation embraced, which is a sign of the confidence and belief in the national team right now.

The first-half was a fairly even affair, albeit the Scots had the majority of the chances. Brentford goalkeeper, Mark Flekken, touched Ryan Christie`s header onto the bar with the best chance of the half for the visitors. However, it was Ronald Koeman`s men who took the lead thanks to Tijani Reijnders. The AC Milan midfielder rifled home past Angus Gunn, to give the Oranje the lead at the interval.

The second-half saw a much more competitive tempo to the match, with both teams creating opportunities; the best of the chances falling to Clarke`s side, but their shooting boots had been left back in Glasgow. Lawrence Shankland had a glorious chance to equalise but smacked the bar with just Flekken to beat.

Following a host of substitutions, the Dutch ran riot in the closing stages: firstly, Gini Wijnaldum headed home to make it 2-0, before late goals from the newly introduced strike partnership of Wout Weghorst and Donyell Malen rounded off what was an impressive performance but horrible scoreline for Scotland.

Highlighrs: Netherlands 4-0 Scotland`s

Clarke`s men would then move on to their second fixture of their March training camp, with Michael O`Neill`s side travelling to Glasgow for a `Battle of Britain` clash. The Scots were demanding a similar performance to what they had produced in Amsterdam, but a much better and improved result. Having not won in 6 matches, the nation required some much needed positivity ahead of this summer`s European Championships in Germany.

Former Brechin City gaffer O`Neill set the visitors up very defensively, in a 5-4-1 formation. The emphasis and onus was on Scotland to break down a packed Northern Irish backline, but that creativity and imagination was lacking. Hampden Park was very quickly a frustrated stadium and the supporters anxiety seemed to spiral onto the pitch.

Nathan Patterson should have cleared his lines within the penalty box but his slack clearance allowed Northern Ireland a rare sighting of goal. Liverpool youngster Conor Bradley – who has broken through into the first-team under Jurgen Klopp this campaign – saw his shot loop up off of Jack Hendry to evade the dive and stretch of Gunn, as the ball landed in the top corner to see Clarke`s side go behind once more.

Captain Andy Robertson, Bradley`s team-mate in Merseyside, left the pitch due to injury prior to the half-time whistle, being replaced by Bologna midfielder Lewis Ferguson. And it was the impressive Serie A attacker who looked the most likely to create something or score as the Tartan Army became growingly annoyed at the performance and result.

Deep into the second-half, former Pars loanee Lawrence Shankland entered the fray and was quickly into the action; he had a shot blocked before heading over the bar under pressure from Northern Ireland goalie Bailey Peacock-Farrell. However, it was Ferguson that came closest for the Scots as the clock ticked down into injury-time, with his header being expertly tipped over the crossbar.

A miserable March for Steve Clarke and his Scotland squad. No wins in 7 matches now for the side which was so impressive during their Euro 2024 Qualifying campaign. A lot of hard work remains to be undertaken on and off the pitch prior to the 14th of June: two friendly matches remain in Clarke`s final training camp before the Euros, with an away trip to Gibraltar before playing Finland at Hampden Park. Clarke emphasised post-match that it was all about peaking in June, but the Tartan Army are getting jittery at the worrying form the nation has shown in recent months.


Highlights: Scotland 0-1 Northern Ireland



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