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Clarke: Win over Kazakhstan will 'set us up' for play-offs

The Scotland manager says a third win in a row would set them up 'nicely' for the play-offs.

Steve Clarke: Pleased to see momentum building.
Steve Clarke: Pleased to see momentum building. SNS

Steve Clarke is hoping his side can continue their winning run all the way to Euro 2020 after they beat Cyprus 2-1.

The Scotland manager says a win over Kazakhstan in their next fixture, in what would be their third win in a row, would 'set them up nicely' for next year's play-offs where they are two games away from their first major tournament since 1998.

Clarke was speaking after John McGinn swept home a 53rd minute winner to win the game in Nicosia. 

Ryan Christie had earlier put them ahead with a spectacular effort in the first half.

Despite a few late scares Scotland managed to see out the victory and move up to to third in their qualifying group despite a well struck goal by George Efrem to cancel out the Celtic man's opener.

They also had an early reprieve when Efrem's shot bounced off the underside of the bar and appeared to cross the line. But the goal was not given.

Clarke is now desperate to build a winning mentality ahead of the play-offs in March after a four-match losing streak ended their automatic qualification hopes.

He said: "It was important to build on the San Marino victory.

"We knew coming here would be a difficult game because it was a difficult game at Hampden in June, a very similar game where we got ourselves in front and I thought when we went in front we were the better team.

"Second half we conceded to another set play or second phase from a set play, but it was a wonderful strike, you have to give the lad Efrem credit.

https://stv.tv/sport/football/1442449-scotland/ | default

"The reaction to that was great, getting ourselves back in front with a really good team goal. And then we showed a little bit of resilience to get the three points we wanted.

"I'm not going to sit here and say it was a fantastic performance. It was a good performance. And sometimes when you are coming out of the run of games we are coming out of, it's more important to win than the performance.

"The win was crucial for us because it gives us the opportunity to go home against Kazakhstan, another three points and that would set us up nicely for the play-off games in March."

Clarke was delighted to see his side brush off the disappointment of conceding after they capitulated in a 4-0 reverse in Russia last month. "The response was really pleasing because we spoke about it at half-time, funnily enough," he said.

"I pointed out to them that at 0-0 in Russia at half-time everyone felt quite good in the dressing-room and our reaction to the adversity of losing the first goal over there wasn't great.

"So we spoke about it and the reaction to their goal was really good. We got ourselves back in front with a great team goal."

Clarke was not convinced Efrem's early effort was a goal. "I've seen the stills but stills are confusing.

"I wouldn't go on the live pictures or the pictures that are in play, it's very difficult to say that ball is over the line and if the officials have the same doubt then they can't give the goal.

Shimon felt the incident was the "decisive moment in the game". He added: "To lead after six minutes would have been crucial. It was half a metre inside. "I never speak about referees but it was a poor performance."

Meanwhile, Clarke allayed injury concerns over Steven Naismith after taking the striker off immediately after he went down clutching his leg. "Steven is fine.

"The substitution was already going ahead."

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