Scotland striker hopeful of beating out competition after Lawrence Shankland call-up
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The QPR striker has missed a lot of football in 2023 after being hospitalised with pneumonia but he came off the bench to play a key role in Scotland’s second goal as they began the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 3-0 victory at Hampden Park.
Dykes was introduced after Che Adams was forced off through injury. The Southampton forward has had to withdraw from the squad, leading to a call-up for Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland for the match against Spain on Tuesday evening.
Shankland has struck 21 times in 38 appearances for the Jambos this term, while Stoke City forward Jacob Brown is also in contention. Dykes heralded the strength in depth enjoyed by Scotland at this current time as he aims to see off his two international team-mates when it comes time for manager Steve Clarke to pick his time ahead of the game in Glasgow.
"I was really happy to be back out there on the pitch with the boys and in front of the fans after a little tough spell," he said of his impact on Saturday. "I was just happy to help the boys get the result.
"I want to start every game for Scotland. I've done well since I came into the set-up but we've got great competition.
"Obviously Lawrence Shankland has come in now and he's had a great season. If I get the nod on the night, I'll be doing my best. The manager knows what I can bring, we've got a great relationship.
"We've got great players who play in the Premier League, probably the best league in the world, and we've got great depth, so we need to be positive and make sure the crowd are behind us and that make it a hard game for Spain.
"It would give us a major boost going forward in the whole competition if we can win this game. If you can pick up six points in the first two games, it's going to be a major step forward, especially against a team like Spain."
Clarke believes patience will be key for his side when Scotland face a very different qualifying challenge than the one they overcame in the opening match of the group on Saturday.
John McGinn fired the Scots into a first-half lead over bottom seeds Cyprus but they were frustrated for the majority of the match with it taking until the 87th minute before substitute Scott McTominay found the all-important second goal. The Manchester United midfielder then killed the game off with a second in stoppage time.
It was the first time Scotland had won their opening match in qualification since defeating the Faroes in 2006. However, Clarke is preparing for a much tougher test against the section's top seeds, who beat Norway 3-0 at home on Saturday.
"Cyprus on Saturday was a different proposition," said Clarke. "We had more attacking opportunities than maybe we will get tomorrow night but when we get attacking opportunities against Spain we have to capitalise on them.
"In every game you have to be organised out of possession, even against Cyprus we knew that if they have a threat it was probably on the counter-attack so you have to be well balanced behind your attacks.
"You don't want to over commit, certainly early in the game and against Spain you know that if you over commit you run the risk of being picked off. So we have to be good and patient without the ball but we also have to be very positive when we have the ball. We have to be ready to be out of possession a little bit more than we were at the weekend, where we dominated possession.
"It might be a little bit different in this game but it is important to stay patient and capitalise at the right moment.
"Obviously going into the Cyprus game we worked quite a lot on attacking play and attacking patterns and quite a lot of that came through against Cyprus.
"The last couple of days have been a bit more defensive. Maybe not so much on the pitch but more in the meeting room - defensive, to control the game and make sure we are good without the ball."
Clarke believes taking on Spain is exactly the type of challenge he wants Scotland to get accustomed to in the future. The former Scotland defender revealed his own positive outlook.
"We want to be competitive against the top teams,” he said. “We got promotion to the Nations League A so in that group we are going to come up against three top quality teams and we have taken England as a friendly [later in the year]. So we are trying to push the players to be better and the more you play against top quality opposition, the better you should get.
"We have shown in the past that we are capable of getting results against good teams and that's what we have to do again tomorrow night.
"I go into every game thinking I am going to win and I have done that since I was 17. Every single game. I don't think you can be professional going into a game thinking you are going to lose.
"We know we have to be disciplined, organised, and play very well. Spain have to slightly under-perform but if that happens then we can get a positive result.
"I enjoy the challenge. If we are competitive and get the balance of luck on the night then you can get something from the game.”