Steve Clarke wasted no time in showing centre-back pairing Declan Gallagher and Scott McKenna the error of their ways following Scotland’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan on Tuesday night.
The Scotland boss was unimpressed by the way Motherwell defender Gallagher and Aberdeen’s McKenna allowed Baktiyor Zainutdinov time and space to fire in a terrific opener in the 34th minute of the Euro 2020 qualifier at Hampden Park.
After a half-time pep talk from Clarke, midfielder John McGinn levelled three minutes into the second half with a deflected free-kick.
Captain Steven Naismith headed in a second in the 64th minute and McGinn notched his seventh goal in six internationals right at the end as Scotland’s third successive win ensured they remained third in Group I, but Clarke was quick to make his point.
“Obviously it wasn’t the greatest of starts for us,” said Gallagher, who only made his debut in the 2-1 win over Cyprus in Nicosia at the weekend.
“The gaffer had a go at us and he showed us the video after the game. It was merited.
“He asked us if we wanted to have a look at it, so he took us in and spoke to us about it and he was right, we should have been closer to the striker.
“We weren’t close enough and they scored after all the possession we had and we go in 1-0 down.
“It helped us to a better second half, so can’t complain.
“He had a go at us at half-time and then after the game he said he thought me and Scotty were excellent so that’s good.
“I thought the first half was laboured and we were a bit lethargic, but in the second half we showed energy and everything we were are capable of, so it was good.”
Scotland failed to gain automatic qualification for next summer’s finals, but they have the chance to get there through the play-offs.
Clarke’s side will be at home in the March 26 match and will discover their opponents in Friday’s draw from a group that includes Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Israel.
The other semi-final is Norway versus Serbia and the draw to see who will have home advantage in the final will also take place at the end of the week.
Gallagher is hoping to remain part of Clarke’s plans for the play-off.
The former Livingston player said: “Two games, two victories, so I am confident.
“But there are a lot of good players out there who are coming back from injury and stuff like that.
“I just need to go back and play well for my club and hopefully I will be getting picked in March.
“I think I have coped quite well. I am a confident boy.
“I have come into the squad and all the boys are great. They took to me well so it was very easy in that sense.
“Getting up to the pace of the game was quite hard, it is different from club football but I am always learning.”