THE Scotland fans who turned up to cheer on the national team in this meaningless Euro 2020 qualifier against tiny San Marino at Hampden last night were hoping to be rewarded with a deluge of goals and they were not to be disappointed.

With a first-half John McGinn hat-trick – he became the first man to achieve that feat for this country in the opening 45 minutes of an international since the great Lawrie Reilly banged in three against the United States way back in 1952 - and second-half strikes from Lawrence Shankland, Stuart Findlay and Stuart Armstrong they certainly rained in.

But what none of the 20,699 supporters who filed through the turnstiles had bargained for was a downpour of biblical proportions.

At one stage in proceedings, as the ball stuck in the sodden turf and the players struggled to cope with the treacherous underfoot conditions, it looked distinctly as if the Group I match was in real danger of being abandoned. Such rotten bad luck would have been entirely in keeping with the fortunes of the national football team, during this dire campaign in particular.

Mercifully, Jerome Brisard, the French referee, was made of stern stuff and the match finished as scheduled.

Steve Clarke, the Scotland manager, decided against taking up his usual position in the technical area during the course of the 90 minutes due to the adverse weather conditions. “I have a nice suit which the Scottish FA have given me,” he said afterwards. “I think it would have been a long, wet night.” But he is hopeful a far sunnier future lies ahead.

It would be wrong to read too much into a game against such mediocre opposition. The visitors have never won a competitive match. Nevertheless, there were still encouraging aspects of the performance ahead of the final qualifiers against Cyprus away and Kazakhstan at home next month and the play-offs in March. “It’s not very often a Scottish team will score six goals,” said Clarke. “So 6-0 is a decent result.”

He added: “I knew before the game that we had a group that was completely focused on what they had to do. They were focused, they started quick, they moved the ball well. We got the three goals in the first half which was great because the conditions got more tricky in the second half.

“It would have been easy for us to just slow down and see the game out at 3-0. But we kept pushing and pushing and pushing because we wanted to get a few goals and make sure we left this camp with some positivity for the next two games.”

The display of McGinn was particularly pleasing for Clarke. The former St Mirren and Hibernian midfielder has often struggled to replicate the sort of form he has shown at Aston Villa with Scotland. At times, he has been something of a liability. But being deployed in the same advanced role that he occupies at club level is clearly to his liking. His showing augurs well for the future.

“He’s a goalscorer in the English Premier League,” said former Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Villa assistant Clarke. “If you can score goals at that level you can score goals at any level.

“They have found a really good way of playing John at Aston Villa where he is always up supporting the striker and getting on the end of second balls in and around the edge of the box. And you see tonight that he has got an eye for a goal. I am delighted for him.”

Lawrence Shankland, the Dundee United striker who started up front, also showed he can, if needed, be called upon to lead the line for Scotland. He had the simplest of tasks to score after his team mate Scott McTominay had struck the crossbar with a shot from outside the San Marino box. But an old school football man like Clarke was greatly impressed.

“He was right on the margin of offside,” he said. “But that’s a striker’s goal – a tap-in from a ball off the crossbar. I thought he was good.”

Stuart Findlay made his international debut and pitched in with the fifth when he got on the end of a Ryan Christie corner. He is unlikely to feature going forward when the likes of Scott McKenna and John Souttar return to fitness. But his former Kilmarnock manager was delighted for the centre half all the same. Keeping a clean sheet was, having leaked 13 goals in their previous four outings, also welcome.

Jon McLaughlin, the Sunderland keeper who was preferred to David Marshall to give him more international experience, had a couple of nasty goal attempts, which skidded towards him across the slick playing surface, to deal with and did so comfortably.

Stuart Armstrong rounded off the rout with four minutes of regulation time remaining with the best goal of the night. He curled a dipping free-kick over the defensive wall after San Marino goalkeeper Also Simoncini had inadvertently picked up the ball outside of his penalty box.

McTominay, too, impressed greatly. The Manchester United man was involved in many of Scotland’s forays upfield, set up two goals and strived to get his own name on the scoresheet throughout. If he can reproduce his display against superior teams going forward the national team have quite a player on their hands.

“He certainly tried hard to get a goal didn’t he?” said Clarke. “Scott didn’t have the disappointment of being part of the team that lost out in Russia. He came in to the team with good positivity.

“You saw that in his performance tonight, driving forward and making sure the team was always on the front foot.”