Steve Clarke refuses to criticise 'fantastic' Scotland players as he makes 'two bad games' admission
Steve Clarke admitted Scotland have had two bad days in quick succession after a 3-0 Nations League reversal to the Republic of Ireland ten days after the World Cup play-off semi-final defeat by Ukraine at Hampden.
First-half goals from Alan Browne and Troy Parrott had Ireland firmly in the driving seat and Michael Obafemi added a spectacular third shortly after the restart. Substitute Scott Hogan nearly made it four, with Grant Hanley clearing his netbound effort off the line, and Clarke wants his players to regroup and go again in Yerevan against Armenia in the second Nations League match of this international break.
“Ireland deserved to win; we didn’t cope with them, we played poorly, and we lost,” he told broadcast media after the game.
"The players have done fantastically for me and the country. We’ve had two big blows in the space of three games, probably for the first time in a long time, and I’m interested to see how we come back as a group.
“The players are at a loss to explain why the performance was so poor."
Clarke dismissed claims that the players could simply be tired after a long season, insisting: “That’s just making excuses.
“You have to look at everything,” he added, when asked if he was able to identify what had gone wrong.
"We didn’t make the right choices at the right time in the game, and we gave a soft goal away from a corner. Ireland got life from that and built into the game.”
Clarke refused to criticise his players, reiterating: “They have been fantastic for me. Sometimes you have bad days; unfortunately we’ve had two in quick succession.
“I understand the fans’ reaction. Sometimes after games you just have to hold your counsel, have a sleep, and think about it. Tomorrow, we’ll speak.
“It was disappointing. A lot to look at, a lot to analyse. We have to stick together, go to Armenia, and get three points.
"We want to do as well as we can in the group and to do that we have to get three points every time.
"There is pressure on every game when you play for your country. If we’d got three points against Ireland, we would still be under pressure to get three points against Armenia,” he finished.