ALEX McLeish last night urged the Scotland supporters who booed their own team for the second time in four days at the end of a jittery 2-0 win over San Marino to remain behind them as they attempt to qualify for the Euro 2020 finals.

The national team, who had been hoping to atone for the 3-0 loss to Kazakhstan in their opening Group I fixture in Nursultan on Thursday night, endured a difficult evening in Serravalle and looked in danger of suffering a humiliating draw.

A Johnny Russell goal with 16 minutes of regulation time remaining eased the nerves of the away fans and ensured McLeish’s men, who had taken the lead through a Kenny McLean strike in just the fourth minute, picked up all three points.

But the Tartan Army – who had chanted “sack the board” and “f*** the SFA” in the second-half as their team struggled against the bottom-placed team in the FIFA World Rankings – jeered Andy Robertson and his team mates at full-time.


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McLeish, whose team now face Cyprus at home and Belgium away in June, felt the supporters had become unhappy at their failure to add to the early opening goal they scored and appealed to them to be patient.

“Stick by the team,” he said. “Stick by the Scottish national team, of course. The fans would have been looking for a few goals to build on the first one, it was that interim between the first goal and scoring the second one when we missed a hatful of chances.

“That’s football. I’ve heard it over the years since I became a professional, at different stages of my life, my career. That happens in football. You know sometimes the players get a bit nervous about that and that’s why sometimes you don’t see the free-flowing football we perhaps saw in November.

“I think they were frustrated that we never kicked on from the first goal. As I said, we did try to keep things going. But you could see there were one or two nervy clearances, maybe clearing a ball when they could have made a pass. They are human beings, sometimes they get affected. But if they come through that it will make them stronger.”

McLeish added: “Listen it’s been a difficult weekend for us. We knew 1-0 or 2-0 was not going to be looked at in any great light at all, but it was important for us to win after the disappointment in Kazakhstan.

“Everybody is hurting on that one. We never quite got the avalanche of goals everyone was looking for, but there are reasons for that. There was a little bit of agitation when we didn’t get the second goal the players got a little bit nervy. They are only human.”

McLeish revealed that he remains confident that Scotland, who clinched a Euro 2020 play-off spot when they won their Nations League group back in November, can qualify automatically by finishing in the top two in their section.

“It’s never over,” he said. “We know the Russians (who beat Kazakhstan 4-0 away yesterday) are strong, we know Belgium are favourites, but it’s never over this early in a competition.

“I think there will be blips in the ensuring games and we have to get better. It’s quite simple. And we need to get our best players in the team. If the Russians and the Belgians don’t get their best players they will have different results also.”


READ MORE: Kenny McLean: Scotland fans were right to boo us - we weren't good enough and deserved it

McLeish explained that he had omitted James Forrest, who scored five goals in two games against Albania and Israel in November, because he felt he was tired after an energy-sapping trip to Central Asia last week. The Celtic winger came on in the second-half and helped set up Russell for the second goal.

“We made a lot of changes, fresh players coming in,” he said. “James has played a lot of football. I explained to him he’s an integral part of the team and the squad. I know he wanted to play, everyone wanted to play, but I said I was going to change the team regardless. There was nothing frightening about that.”