Steve Clarke explains Craig Gordon's manic 24 hours and issues Scotland injury update
Scotland boss Steve Clarke hailed Craig Gordon after the Hearts goalkeeper left the camp less than 24 hours before Saturday’s match against Republic of Ireland to attend the birth of his son, before returning and big contribution in the 2-1 win at Hampden.
Winning his 72nd cap, Gordon made an important stop with his feet to deny Troy Parrott when the score was 1-1 midway through the second half and the striker broke clear on the counter attack.
It kept the Scots on the front foot after Jack Hendry’s 50th-minute equaliser. John Egan had fired the Irish in front in the first half, but Ryan Christie’s 84th-minute penalty keeps the Scots top of Group B1 in the Nations League.
Clarke’s men require a point against Ukraine in Krakow on Tuesday to secure top spot and promotion to the top level of the tournament, as well as a guaranteed play-off spot for Euro 2024.
Much of the credit goes to Gordon, who once again showed his commitment to the cause. He left the Scotland base at 10.30pm on Friday to be at partner Summer’s side as she gave birth to a boy. He returned on Saturday morning, skipped a team meeting to get some sleep before taking his place in goal at Hampden.
“Very early this morning, so he didn’t get much sleep last night,” Clarke said of Gordon’s new arrival. “I believe he’s got a lovely baby boy, over 9lbs, so he’s a big baby boy.
"He asked if he could be excused the lunchtime meeting for some kip. Mum and baby are both doing very well, that’s the main thing.
“Craig did what he always does. He had to make one big save in the game, he put the onus on the striker and Craig made the save as he normally does. You can’t speak highly enough of him. He is so important for this team.
“He’s getting older but he shows no signs of going backwards. He wants to keep improving, he wants to keep doing well and he wants to be part of this successful group of players, which is great. And for me as a head coach, it’s a pleasure to be his head coach.”
Clarke had to replace both his full-backs during the match after Kieran Tierney and former Hearts defender Aaron Hickey both picked up knocks. Tierney was replaced due to suspected concussion.
"It was just precautionary,” Clarke said of Tierney’s situation. “I let the medics deal with all that. He just got a knock on the head. It’s better to be safe. The fact Kieran hasn’t played a full 90 minutes too – I had Greg Taylor ready to come on.
“I actually considered starting Greg if I’m being honest because Kieran is still playing catch-up on minutes. It was just that decision. Hickey’s hamstring was a bit tight.”
One player who will be missing against Ukraine is Scott McTominay, who picked up a late yellow card and is suspended for the match in Krakow.
Clarke added: “It’s disappointing, for something that happened so late in the game. But we have plenty of cover, many midfield players, if it has to be Ryan Jack or Kenny McLean we have good bodies to go into the midfield.
“It’s a blow to lose Scott because he is good for us but it’s a great chance for someone to play in a fantastic game.”