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Stark's colts left bruised by a six-goal Oranje crush

ANOTHER post-mortem will begin this morning around the Scotland under-21 side.

Karin Rekik scores the Netherlands' fourth. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Karin Rekik scores the Netherlands' fourth. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Quincy will be at the heart of it.

This heavy defeat to a slick Dutch side bursting with potential all but confirmed Billy Stark and his players will not be present at next summer's European Championships in the Czech Republic. There will be disappointment at that but no great shock.

Scotland, after all, have not qualified for the finals since 1996, so this is the 10th campaign in a row that will end in frustration. The two matches left in this group - away to Slovakia and then Luxembourg in September - now become an early opportunity for Stark to experiment with the next crop of players coming through the system in the hope that they can be the ones to finally end the drought.

It was always going to be a big ask to defeat a Dutch side oozing with class, confidence and flair, the real damage done earlier in the campaign when Scotland could only take a point from their two games against Georgia. They gave it a decent go here in the first half, looking to get forward and create chances, but the feeling was the visitors had the ability to go through the gears if they needed to. When they did, Scotland couldn't live with them.

The second half was largely one-way traffic, the Dutch as persistent as toothache as they consistently probed away at an overworked Scotland defence. The under-21s hadn't lost at St Mirren Park since setting up home here in 2011 but they were thoroughly outclassed last night. The Dutch hero was Quincy Promes, the Twente FC midfielder grabbing a first-half hat-trick so exquisite that even the 3000 or so home fans were moved to offer applause.

Karim Rekik thudded in a fourth early in the second half, by which point it looked as if the Dutch could score with every attack. They managed two more, substitute Hakim Ziyech netting with a long-range effort not long after coming on then scrambling in another. The Scots had suffered more than enough long before then.

The Dutch pedigree could be measured in pound signs. Marco van Ginkel, an £8m signing for Chelsea last summer, led the line, Twente's Luc Castaignos had arrived from Internazionale for £4m, while Ola John, the Benfica winger with a £40m buy-out clause, was restricted to a late run-out from the bench. Scotland started with Stevie May, who could move this summer for a fee in the region of £300,000. That gulf proved insurmountable.

Promes claimed his first after 26 minutes, twice dragging the ball across the Scotland box with sleight of foot before lashing his shot beyond Jordan Archer in the Scotland goal. His second arrived after 40 minutes, the winger turning Kevin McHattie before again finishing crisply, and a malfunctioning offside trap then allowed him in to grab his hat-trick. They were all difficult chances but Promes made them look simple as he danced and darted around an array of discombobulated defenders.

The second half was academic but the Dutch were relentless, making the ball work as Scotland tired. They enjoyed a dose of fortune about their fourth goal but were clinical enough to make the most of it. Van Ginkel's goalbound effort was cleared off the line by Kenny McLean but respite would be brief, with Rekik battering the rebound beyond Archer. Then on came Ziyech to share in the glory with a late double as Scotland wilted.

"That was a difficult night," said Stark, who revealed his determination to stay in the job. "Defensively we had a poor night against absolutely top-class opposition, and that can happen. The quality of their finishing was the main thing. But that's the first home qualifier I've lost in six years."

Stark will perhaps look to a brace of chances missed by Stuart Armstrong with the game still scoreless as irrefutable evidence that not taking chances against a classy side tends to prove costly. They also had the misfortune of seeing a John McGinn shot hit the post when they were only one behind.

Finally, with Scotland six down, there was a moment to celebrate, May rounding off a terrific personal season with a consolation strike. By then, of course, it was far too late to be significant. Scotland's chances of qualifying had been well and truly squashed by the Oranje.

"It's a competition where there is no margin for error," added Stark. "We've not found the consistency I would like, even though there have been bits of promise. But in terms of qualification it's not been anywhere near good enough, to be honest."

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