THERE is disappointment in the Scotland camp following their defeat to the Czech Republic at Hampden on Monday afternoon, but by no means despair.

Losing their opening match of Euro 2020 - arguably the easiest game they will face in Group D - has complicated the national team’s bid to reach the last 16 no end and left their eternally optimistic fans bereft.

They will have to do far better against joint tournament favourites England at Wembley on Friday night and then Russia 2018 finalists Croatia back in Glasgow on Tuesday evening if they are to progress to the knockout rounds for the first time in their history. It is a tall order.  

Yet, Steve Clarke saw much in their display against the Czechs to give him hope that Scotland can achieve their objective and both he and his charges remain far from despondent about their future prospects

Clarke launched stout defences of Lyndon Dykes, who passed up two scoring opportunities, David Marshall, the goalkeeper who was beaten by a 50 yard wonder strike, and Stephen O’Donnell, the right wing-back who has been subjected to criticism by fans since the reverse, as he looked back over the 90 minutes at their training base outside Darlington yesterday.

But he preferred to accentuate the positives. He felt the back three of Liam Cooper, Grant Hanley and Jack Hendry had functioned well. He was, too, pleased with the chances his men created, if not by the quality of the finishing. He is adamant there is much to build on. 

“Obviously, we were disappointed that we didn’t manage to send the fans home happy,” he said. “But my job is to look at the performance. If you don’t just look at the result, if you are honest and you look at the game, as we do, there is a lot to take out of the game.

“We weren’t clinical enough for sure, but we created enough. They were clinical with what they created. They had 10 shots on goal and got seven on target. They looked a little bit more dangerous in and around the box. We were hoping to score, they are expecting to score. That was probably the difference.

“I still thought we defended quite well. Even in the second-half, I thought Grant Hanley was outstanding. I know he gets a little bit of stick off certain members of the Tartan Army or whatever. But I thought he was excellent for us. It was great to see. We defended reasonably well.

“Yes, Marsh had to make a couple of saves, which you expect when you open the game up. But we did miss some decent chances to at least get the 2-1, which at least puts them under pressure. Then you never know what’s going to happen after that.”

Asked what Scotland need to do to record a famous win over England in London, he said: “We need to defend a little bit better, not concede any goals and score one of the chances that we make. It’s that simple, eh? Listen, everyone wants to analyse things and go over and over and over what happened. But that’s what we have to do.”

The fallout to the match, Scotland’s first outing in a major tournament since the 3-0 defeat to Morocco at France ’98 some 23 years earlier, has centred on Clarke’s decision to pick Ryan Christie ahead of Che Adams, on Lyndon Dykes’ misses, on Marshall’s positioning for the second Patrick Schick goal and on the showing of O’Donnell.

The manager could make changes to his starting line-up – Adams is almost certain to start and Nathan Patterson could even be given a run-out – but he has no regrets about any of his choices or concerns about the mindset of any of his players going into the England game

“All I say to Lyndon is ‘just keep getting into those positions big man because eventually the goals will start coming’” he said. “Is it confidence? I don’t know, I don’t know.

“With strikers it’s about getting into the positions. They’ll all go through a run of games where they’re scoring quite regularly. Like Lyndon did at the end of last season. Then they go through little patches when the ball doesn’t quite fall for them and hit the back of the net. But Lyndon has a good mentality so he’ll keep getting in there.”

Clarke continued: “Every decision you make is a big decision. You make decisions with the best intentions and that’s what we did.

“I don’t think Che would have made too much difference in the first-half because we didn’t get quality ball into the strikers. When we lost the goal just before half-time I had a fair idea the game would open up. That allowed Che to show his talents.”

Asked about how Marshall was feeling Clarke said: “David’s fine. He’s an experienced player, knows the game and has probably faced that type of shot about 50 times in his career. That’s the only time it’s gone in. It happens.

“I can’t understand the criticism of David. It was a shot from Jack Hendry on the edge of their box and three seconds later it’s in the back of our net. A blocked shot can go anywhere. It fell perfectly for him to run onto it and hit. It’s one of those things.”

Clarke felt that singling out O’Donnell for blame was unfair. “Analyse the game and tell me what Stephen did wrong?” he said. “How many chances came off that side? Jakub Jankto, one of their most dangerous players, had a quiet game. Their left-back, a really good attacking left-back, Jan Boril, didn’t create a chance in the game.

“So analyse the game before we start killing players, just because who they are and where they play. Analyse his games when he plays for us. Look at his performances objectively. Just look at the games. Stephen’s first job is to be a defender. So analyse the games. That’s all I’ll say on that one.”

He added: “You have to be professional. Our job as professionals is to deal with the highs and deal with the lows. This is just the way it is. It’s always difficult to explain to people who are not in football. Things don’t always go for you. Even when they do there is always something that brings you back down.

“The lads know it. They are at the top of their profession. I would like to think I am pretty near the top of my profession. So we learn how to deal with it. You have to cope. Monday was a low but we look forward to the next high.”