ACH, you knew it was coming at some point, didn’t you? But did it have to be against England?

Alas, there are levels to this game, and while Steve Clarke’s gallant Scots have been scaling new ones of late and have rightly been lauded for their efforts, they were given a stark and painful reminder – particularly in the first 45 minutes at Hampden - that they still have some way to go.

That being said, both they and their manager showed a remarkable aptitude for learning as they go, and they were much better after the interval to just about prevent the Tartan Army’s bubble from bursting completely by putting up a better fist of things. Helped by the introduction, of course, of the hapless Harry Maguire.

In the end, it wasn’t enough though. And it was a strange old night all told. There were positives, for certain. But for long spells, it has to be said, Scotland were outclassed.

The pre-match atmosphere around the old stadium was crackling, and fitting of the display unfurled from the national stadium’s North Stand that hailed ‘150 years of history, rivalry and passion.’ There was also the usual pantomime antics from the opposing fans before kick-off. The deafening boos that backtracked each other’s anthems, for example.

Though it strayed into more unsavoury territory as chants of ‘Eng-ur-lund, Eng-ur-land’ were belted out during a minute’s silence for former Scotland manager Craig Brown and the recent tragedies in Morocco and Libya.

Not to be outdone in their taste for the distasteful, the Tartan Army stationed around the England support responded with a chorus of ‘Lizzie’s in a Box’. It was all something of a relief when the action got underway. Though, not for long for the Scots, as it quickly became apparent that the visitors had come to play.

Even the early eye test was alarming. The English - to butcher a quote from that historical film of record, Braveheart - were too many. At least, that is how it appeared. They seemed bigger, fitter, stronger, faster and sharper than the boys in dark blue. In fact, boys are exactly what Scotland appeared to be in comparison.

The starkest example of this was in the midfield, where the brilliantly talented but diminutive Billy Gilmour was beavering away and trying to make an impact against Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham.

The England midfielder is an absolute Rolls-Royce of a player. Physically imposing, fleet of foot, pace to burn and an eye for a pass. It isn’t a stretch to say he is among the very best on the planet, so there is no shame that our midfielders struggled to make an impact against him. Particularly alongside £100m Arsenal man Declan Rice and Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips.

But again, it was a reminder that if we do want to go to Germany and make an impact, these are the levels the likes of Gilmour and Callum McGregor will have to aspire to.

Scotland were creaking, and eventually the constant pressure and running in behind paid dividends for the English. They bobbed it around the edge of the area, eventually working it to Kyle Walker on the right, who fired the ball across goal for Phil Foden to tap home.

Hampden was silenced, and even the normally unflappable Scotland captain Andy Robertson was discombobulated. Another lesson was to follow.

In such dire moments, the ship must be steadied, and the sting taken out of the game. Instead, the Liverpool man served up a second for England on a silver platter, somehow getting a clearance all wrong to dolly the ball straight to Bellingham of all people, dead centre of goal.

The ball predictably flew past Angus Gunn once more, and suddenly this was all threatening to get a bit messy as heads collapsed into hands around Hampden.

There was disappointment, but no little relief when the half-time whistle gave the Scots some sweet respite, but while this was a learning curve for the players, the break also gave manager Steve Clarke a chance to show that even he is still able to adapt and heed his mistakes.

After sitting off the English in the first half, it was immediately apparent that Scotland were 10 yards further up the pitch, pressing the visitors high and at least making them feel a little uncomfortable. Though, it could be argued the biggest tactical tweak that turned the game in Scotland’s favour was made not by Clarke, but by Gareth Southgate in bringing on Maguire.

The performance levels were night and day though from the timid first half offering, and no one encapsulated that more than the Scottish skipper. It was he who forced the issue to throw Scotland a lifeline, popping up on the right after some lovely play from Scott McTominay and John McGinn to smash a low ball across goal. And where there was Maguire, there was hope for Scotland.

The gormless Manchester United centre-back stuck out a foot, and the ball wrong-footed Aaron Ramsdale to nestle into the net. Of course it did.

Hampden sparked back to life, and Robertson threw in another couple of crosses that Scotland substitute Lyndon Dykes got on the end of, and might have done better with than to first glance wide and then over.

Sadly, though probably fittingly, it was Bellingham who would stamp his class on the encounter late on to sign off in typically brilliant style. He turned Ryan Christie inside out in the midfield, and picked out a defence-splitter for Harry Kane to drill past Gunn and deflate the growing optimism around Hampden.

Scotland may have done just about enough in the second half to maintain the general optimism around the prospects of this side though. They have been brilliant in their European Championships qualifying group, beating Spain here, and are all but certain to make it to Germany next summer.

There is plenty to be excited about when considering what this team may be capable of when they get there. Though, on this evidence, more than a few areas of concern too.