​ Matthew Johnston ​ If you’re a small nation that already have a team that’s lopsided to the left, an injury on the right will be felt.

When you travel to a major tournament missing your first and second choice on that flank, it’s more than likely to show in some moments. So has proven to be the case for Scotland at Euro 2024.

No Aaron Hickey or Nathan Patterson has left Steve Clarke short of options and quality at right wing-back. Anthony Ralston has shown in certain spells at Celtic a higher level than currently on show in Germany but the 25-year-old started just six league games last season. The best football of his career came as an inverted full-back under Ange Postecoglou but here, on the biggest stage of all, Ralston has been left wide and isolated as a running wing-back. The results in Cologne against Switzerland were concerning.

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Andy Robertson was quick to praise his teammate after a 1-1 draw kept progression hopes alive. Raslton’s error, playing a short backpass midway through the first half that was mishit, allowed Xherdan Shaqiri a shooting chance from range. As the 32-year-old has proven over so many years, any distance or gap will do.

"Not many people would come back from that," said Robertson on Ralston. "It was a difficult one for him, but, in the second half, he was different class."

While few could deny that Ralston hid or checked out after the break the issues that had persisted during the first 45 remained. Switzerland, like Germany, targeted the defender when they pressed and that saw him often play sidewards or backwards. At worst this didn’t only stunt Scotland’s ball progression, it also invited pressure.

Clarke has a habit of trusting players in spite of noise on the outside. You only need to look at the same position during the last Euros appearance to find an example. Stephen O’Donnell kept his place and was one of Scotland’s better performers against England having struggled against the Czech Republic in the opening game of the group stage. However even Clarke, privately, will know the right-sided performance cannot be the same this time around if a win over Hungary is to be achieved. Although options are limited there are a few potential solutions…

Iron out what worked well against Switzerland...

As the Herald covered yesterday when discussing the tactical tweaks and changes made for matchday two, Ralston was often pushed into the last line by Clarke when Scotland tried to move the ball from back to front. That meant that Jack Hendry shifted to right-back as his side started in a back four, with Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor offering short options and Ralston, John McGinn and Che Adams targets to make the ball stick up front. This utilised Ralston’s physicality as a target for long balls - Angus Gunn attempted more long passes to the right wing-back than any other player in Cologne - while mitigating his weaknesses playing out by the touchline under pressure. If the Celtic defender starts again he will still be required to provide width at points but the more Scotland can adhere to this shape in build-up, the better.

Bring in Ross McCrorie...

The Bristol City player only made his international debut in the warm-up match against Gibraltar. Therefore, putting him into Scotland’s biggest game for years seems a bit risky, doesn’t it? Is McCrorie any better on the ball than Ralston under pressure? Arguably, it’s Ralston who has more experience of operating in a possession-based team. McCrorie would offer a viable outball on the right-wing with his size and is an athlete more than capable of keeping up with play. The lack of international gametime is likely to count against him in Stuttgart, however.

Play James Forrest from the start...

Forrest’s strong end to the league season and the aforementioned injuries to Scotland’s right-hand side earned an international recall for the 32-year-old on the eve of Euro 2024. In theory, Clarke could shift his back five into a back four to shoehorn Forrest into his team with Hendry moving out to the touchline in build-up. The question is, do the risks outweigh the rewards? What Forrest would grant Clarke is options in possession. As a winger used to being trapped by the touchline and going beyond a marker, it’s unlikely that Forrest would be forced backwards and sidewards so often. But Hungary are strong on their left-hand side in the form of Milon Kerkez and when Robertson goes on a mazy run down Scotland’s left, as materialised for the opener against Switzerland, it’s expected that the right wing-back becomes the right-back. What’s more, Dominic Szobozslai frequently moves out to overload that flank in his free No.10 role, creating Hungary’s only goal of the tournament so far on the opening day against Switzerland from that exact position. Forrest’s role, if to materialise, may be more likely from the bench as a result.

READ MORE: Further improvement is needed in every area for Scotland to make history in Germany

Shift to a back four...

The injury to Kieran Tierney coincides with Scotland’s issues on the right. Tierney is out for the remainder of Euro 2024, however long Scotland remain in Germany, and that throws up a question about the formation Clarke picks tomorrow. Scotland’s back three system is designed to get the best out of Robertson and Tierney, allowing both to run forward, interchange and drive their team up the park on the left. Should Scott McKenna assume Tierney’s mantle next to Grant Hanley and Hendry his interpretation of the position will be more traditional. There’s an argument that without Tierney’s added threat on the left side Clarke’s system will take a hit. Could that mean a more traditional back four is picked? It seems unlikely an entirely new system will be favoured at this short notice, especially when you consider the lack of wide options this squad boasts outside of full-back. Forrest is the only out-and-out winger available while a narrow attack is facilitated by wing-backs. Even still, it would shift Ralston into a role where he’s less isolated and perhaps more at home. The absence of playing round pegs in round holes on either side of the midfield is one of the reasons why Clarke’s side rarely shifts away from wing-backs and, in a game of such significance, that fact will probably remain.