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Steve Clarke wary of Ireland reaction when Scotland visit for Nations League tie

Scotland manager Steve Clarke wary of Republic of Ireland despite their poor Nations League start (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Scotland manager Steve Clarke wary of Republic of Ireland despite their poor Nations League start (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Steve Clarke expects the Republic of Ireland to see the visit of Scotland as the catalyst for a Nations League rescue bid.

While the Scots beat Armenia 2-0 in their Group B1 opener at Hampden Park on Wednesday night, Stephen Kenny’s side have lost their opening two fixtures, away to Armenia and against Ukraine at home, both by the only goal of the game.

However, Clarke is wary of an Irish backlash at the Aviva Stadium where the visitors will be backed by 2,500 Tartan Army members.

“I expect a tough challenge,” said the Scotland boss, who confirmed Rangers goalkeeper Robby McCrorie has been drafted into the squad, with goalkeeper Zander Clark and defender Liam Cooper dropping out for their respective weddings.

“Anyone going to Dublin to play can expect a tough game.

“Obviously their last two games have gone against them but only by one goal.

“Previous to that, an eight-game run where they went unbeaten and within that eight-game run was Portugal and Belgium so we expect a tough game.

“They probably started the group with high expectations. It hasn’t worked out for them in the two games so far.

“They will be looking at the home game against Scotland and hoping to get a foothold in the group to make the games in September meaningful
for them.

“It should be a good atmosphere, it should be a good game and hopefully we can send the Tartan Army home happy.”

While uncapped McCrorie, who earned a first call-up for the Nations League games with Israel and Czech Republic in 2020, trained with the squad, Clarke admitted he was somewhat surprised by David Marshall’s decision to call time on his international career.

The 37-year-old, who will play for Hibernian next season following his move from QPR, confirmed he would be stepping down from Scotland duty in the wake of the 3-1 World Cup play-off semi-final defeat to Ukraine at Hampden Park where he was an unused substitute.

Clarke said: “It was a little bit of a surprise, certainly the timing, in the middle of the camp.

“I had a good chat with David and his mind was made up.

“We shook hands, I thanked him for everything he had done for the national team and wished him well for the rest of his club career.”

Clarke made six changes for the visit of Armenia but will be more conservative when he names his team for the game against the Republic of Ireland.

The former West Brom and Kilmarnock boss said: “You have to react to different games, different situations and different results can change your mind a little bit.

“I was pleased with the team the other night, I thought they did well.

“There will be some more rotations but maybe not as many as six.”

On the changes to his squad, Clarke said: “I’ve lost a couple, I mentioned a way back about wedding dates and Zander Clark and Liam Cooper have both left the squad to go away and get married and we wish them well.

“I have called up Robby McCrorie who has come in as another goalkeeper, so good for Robby.”