Goals breed confidence for Scotland


Published: Monday 30th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Steven Naismith insists he saw no signs of Steven Fletcher’s goal drought affecting him – but admits all of Scotland’s forward players will benefit from their goal spree against Gibraltar.

Fletcher quadrupled his international goals tally with a hat-trick on Sunday – the first from a Scotland player since Colin Stein struck four against Cyprus in 1969.

The Sunderland striker, who has not scored for his club since November 3, had only netted once in his previous 19 internationals and not since a 2-1 win over Iceland six years ago.

Naismith was also keen to add to his record with his first-half strike in the 6-1 European Championship qualifying win taking his total to five, while Shaun Maloney moved on to six – and four in this campaign, by netting two penalties.

On Fletcher, Naismith said: “I don’t think he has suffered that much. The way we play, he brings so much to the team that it’s not all about goals.

“But, on the other hand, all the forward players in the squad have said we should probably have more goals to our name in international football, and it’s good to see all three of us on the scoresheet going forward.

“It will give him a lot of confidence because any player who scores goals does get a bit more confident from it.”

Fletcher’s first came five minutes after Gibraltar had stunned Hampden with their first competitive goal when Lee Casciaro took advantage of the space outside of Scotland’s three-man defence to level in the 19th minute.

With Russell Martin the sole centre-back in the first half, Scotland looked vulnerable but Naismith felt the tactics worked well in the end.

“We worked on it during the week, we discussed it as a squad and we thought it was the right way to go.

“When we went a few goals ahead it was right the manager did change it. It was all about not conceding, continuing to play well, and hopefully scoring a few more. And in the second half that’s what happened.”

Barry Bannan was on the bench when Gibraltar stunned the Tartan Army but he felt his team-mates responded in the right manner.

Bannan said: “They frightened us a bit at the start, it was a bit of a culture shock for the boys. We thought we would go out and play well and score goals. They came out and had a few chances.

“With scoring you thought, ‘Brilliant, we have got the early goal’. But they came back really well and it shocked us and woke us up a bit. I think it shocked everyone in the ground but we got the goal back quickly.

“The main thing going into the game was having the right attitude and we have come out the right end comprehensively with a win. We got three points, we have scored, Fletch has got a hat-trick for his confidence.

“Germany beat them 4-0 and we beat them 6-1 so it was a good game for us.”

It was also a good game for Bannan, who gave Scotland a much-needed spark when he came on for the final 15 minutes.

The Crystal Palace midfielder, who is on loan at Bolton, was involved in Fletcher’s second goal and then created his third, and also forced a good save.

“I love playing football so when I get on I’m going to try and impress,” the 25-year-old said.

“Obviously it’s 20 minutes so I’m going to do my all to try and force my way in. I’ve got to impress every time I can, everyone is fighting for positions in this team.

“I thought it was a chance to go out and show what I can do and hopefully I have done that. I got on the ball quite a lot more than I thought I would have and I set up one of the goals as well, so I was pleased.”

Scotland next face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin and will aim to at least maintain their two-point lead over Martin O’Neill’s side. And the June 13 date holds no fears for Bannan despite the match falling weeks after domestic seasons end.

“It’s been like that the last couple of years,” he said. “We played Croatia over there and beat them 1-0 (in June 2013). Footballers know how to prepare so you don’t go on holiday mode. You are always at it and we will be ready for that.”

Published: Monday 30th March 2015 by The News Editor

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