Scotland manager Gordon Strachan was today trying to piece together the lessons his side must learn from the disappointment of their 3-2 defeat against England at Wembley.
Strachan wants his team to show more steel and concentration after throwing away a 2-1 lead and squandering the opportunity to record a result which would have had fans buzzing for years.
Scotland twice led through goals from James Morrison and Kenny Miller, with Theo Walcott levelling in between, but second-half goals from Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck and Southampton’s Rickie Lambert saw Roy Hodgson’s side emerge victorious in the match to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Football Association.
Strachan said: “I feel huge disappointment for everybody. It could have been a result you’d be talking about in 40 years’ time. There are things I liked, but our concentration went at times. That was the defining thing. It wasn’t work rate, it was concentration that cost us.
“I discount the last 20 minutes when we were trying everything, throwing everything left, right and centre, it got a bit disorganised then.
“We were trying to protect a few players because I didn’t want to send them back to their clubs with groin strains or hamstring strains. When we lost a couple of our more experienced players the game went away from us.”
Strachan put England’s second-half goals, both headers, one from a free-kick and the other from a corner, down to defensive lapses, but also praised the resolve and technique of Hodgson’s side.
“You have to give them credit for putting the ball in the right place at the right time,” said Strachan. “I go back to when Manchester United won in 1999 and Beckham in the 90th and 92nd minutes produces crosses which are telling.
“People think it is easy to take free-kicks and corner kicks, it’s not. Everybody’s watching and to be able to deliver it and strong enough to head it you have got to give them credit for that.
“There were so many players coming on and off at that point it was a problem.”
Strachan, however, can take solace from the impressive work of his developing squad, despite his side being unable to qualify for the World Cup.
“When it went to 2-1 I genuinely thought we were going to win the game,” said Strachan. “I will feel better hopefully in a day or two, but at the moment I’m not enjoying the experience.
“I forgot this was a friendly. It doesn’t feel like that now. It’s a long time since I’ve felt as bad as this.”
Morrison opened the scoring for Scotland after just 11 minutes, although his goal was down mainly to some awful goalkeeping from Joe Hart. Picking up a clearance from a corner some 30 yards out, the midfielder was allowed to charge towards the penalty box unchallenged before hitting a shot which swerved a little, but was still at a comfortable height for Hart to save. The England keeper, however, somehow let the ball slip through his body and into the bottom corner.
The West Brom star admitted his goal was the highlight of his career, but wished it had been part of a Scottish victory.
“I’m lost for words,” he said. “It will take a few weeks for it to sink in.
“I got it out of my feet and I thought ‘I’m going to hit this’ and obviously it went into the back of the net and it was a great feeling.
“Joe Hart is a great keeper and he does save a lot of long shots, but it was a solid strike and it moved a bit. I was delighted.
“But I would have liked a win more than a goal.”
England came back at the visitors and they got the equaliser on 29 minutes – albeit with a slice of good luck. Scotland left centre-back Grant Hanley was off the pitch receiving treatment for an injury when England broke. Walcott scampered down the right-hand side to collect Tom Cleverley’s through ball, cut back inside Steven Whittaker before steering the ball into the bottom corner of Allan McGregor’s net.
The teams went into the break level, but Scotland soon regained the upper hand with a quite stunning goal from Miller. The former Hibs striker, now playing for Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada, is a man who often splits the Tartan Army, with many feeling he is too old to be leading the line, but he sent those fans into heaven with a brilliant strike on 49 minutes. Collecting an Alan Hutton pass, he shielded the ball from Gary Cahill, flummoxed the centre-half with a feint to his right before swivelling to his left and firing home.
That Scotland could not preserve their advantage for a tangible period of time will be a fact most lamented by the visitors. Four minutes later, Welbeck rose at the back post to glance Steven Gerrard’s free-kick home and then, after some sustained pressure, finally got the winner when substitute Lambert scored with his first touch after bulleting home Leighton Baines’ corner on 70 minutes.
“It was disappointing, the two goals we lost in the second half, two set plays, it should be our bread and butter,” lamented Miller. “We are normally quite good at that but tonight we let ourselves down and it cost us the game.
“Obviously it was fantastic to come back and get involved in the national team and to get a goal in a Scotland versus England game at Wembley was a bit of a dream.
“But it would have been far better if it would have been part of a positive result.
“The dream would have been it being the winning goal.”
England: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Jagielka (Jones 84), Baines, Cleverley (Milner 67), Gerrard (Oxlade-Chamberlain 62), Wilshere (Lampard 46), Walcott (Zaha 75), Rooney (Lambert 67), Welbeck. Subs not used: Foster, Johnson, Cole, Smalling, Defoe, Ruddy.
Scotland: McGregor, Hutton, Martin, Hanley, Whittaker, Snodgrass (Conway 66), Morrison (Rhodes 82), Brown, Forrest (Mulgrew 67), Maloney (Naismith 86), Miller (Griffiths 73). Subs not used: Gilks, McArthur, Burke, Adam, Webster, Bannan, Mackay-Steven, Dorrans, Boyd, Greer, Hammell, Marshall.
Referee: F Brych (Germany)