Ricky Sbragia praised Scotland Under-21s’ two-goal hero Jason Cummings for not going into hiding after his first-half penalty miss against Northern Ireland.
he Hibs striker, who hadn’t scored in his previous seven matches for club and country, looked set for another day of frustration when his spot-kick, which he had won himself, was saved by Kilmarnock goalkeeper Conor Brennan.
In addition, the 20-year-old, playing up front on his own, spurned another couple of opportunities in a first half which ended with the Scots trailing 1-0 following a misjudgment by Jack Hamilton, the Hearts goalkeeper.
However, Cummings finally found the net with a match-winning, close-range double after Oli McBurnie, who had come on early in the second half to partner him in attack, had equalised.
“Jason was always getting in the box and getting on the end of chances,” said head coach Sbragia. “I knew the time would come when he would score. He wasn’t the only one who found it difficult in the first half. The introduction of Oli helped Jason because it’s a tough shift up there on your own.
“Throughout the week he never let himself get down. He was aware of not scoring but I never mentioned it to him and I never brought up the penalty miss at half time either. It’s part of the game.”
The victory kept alive Scotland’s slim hopes of finishing second in their qualifying section and sneaking a play-off spot for the 2017 European Championship campaign in Poland. However, Sbragia acknowledges that it remains a long shot.
“Will we need four wins from four? Yes,” he said. “We’ve got three away games and how our opponents approach these games will depend whether they think they are out of it or not. I actually don’t think we are out of it. I think we have a chance of stealing second place.
“We’ve got Macedonia next and I’ve seen them four times and they are exceptional, no doubt about it. We are in a tough group but we can only do our best.
“After a difficult game against Macedonia we’ve got to go to Iceland which is a massive game. France dropped two points [against Macedonia] the other day and we have played France twice, which is good.”