Billy Stark admitted his Scotland youngsters had been left “heartbroken” by Slovakia’s last-gasp equaliser as they drew 1-1 last night.
The Scotland Under-21s looked set for an unlikely win when Ryan Fraser netted a second-half breakaway strike.
But Ondrej Duda’s 90th-minute leveller meant they escaped with only a point, leaving their faint hopes of qualifying for next year’s UEFA Under-21 Championships in tatters.
Scotland goalkeeper Jordan Archer kept the Scots in it with a series of saves and the defence produced some important blocks as it looked like they would hold on for the win, which would have technically kept alive their play-off hopes, albeit with a massive goal difference swing required.
But Stark said: “It was heart-breaking. Looking at this campaign you’re searching for that wee bit of luck at the right time. We’ve never really found that.
“The performance deserved a victory. They got back the determination and resilience to defend properly against a good side with a real presence.
“We countered intelligently and created good chances. There were lots of good individual displays but collectively they showed they were a team.
“With a young group we can take a lot of heart. You don’t get ahead of yourself but the midfielders showed they could do both parts of the game well.
“We’d trained to get Ryan Fraser and Stevie May through on them and that happened on numerous occasions.
“We can improve on focusing on the game – not just thinking about playing, but on how the team functions and what can work for us.”
Slovakia U21: Rusov, Pauschek, Ninaj, Hudak, Dionatan, Rusnak (Meszaros 66), Hrosovsky, Duda, Lasik (Lobotka 83), Schranz, Zrelak.
Scotland U21: Archer, Jack, McGhee, Findlay, Robertson (Hendrie 26), Slater, Macleod, McGinn, R Fraser (McKenzie 82), May, Gauld (Marcus Fraser 88). Subs Not Used: Hamilton, Nicholson,Christie, McManus.