Tinkering Steve Clarke's Scotland send off more subdued than Ally's Army as open top bus can wait until AFTER Euro 2024

Steve Clarke
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

There was no Ally’s Army style open-top bus routine at Hampden last night. Steve Clarke’s Crew got a slightly more subdued send-off for the Euros.

And we just need to hope the wheels are still on the Scotland wagon as the squad set off on the road to Germany. This draw with Finland was more frustration than fanfare. But Clarke’s men all came through unscathed and it won’t matter a jot in the grand scheme. Are Scotland ready? We’ll soon find out.

It’s worth remembering in that bonkers leaving do in 1978, when Ally McLeod’s men did a preposterous pre-Argentina lap of honour amid promises of coming back with a medal, the side didn’t actually dig out the boots. There wasn’t even a friendly to deal with and we all know how that turned out. Scotland had to get this out of the way and looked to be signing off with a win when Andy Robertson teed up an own goal and then a Lawrence Shankland second.

But Finland refused to play ball – and did their best to wreck Craig Gordon’s own big farewell. The keeper won’t be going to Germany but got the final 20 minutes when the Finns fought back.

Conceding a harsh penalty for the second wasn’t part of his final script – and it wasn’t what the 41-year-old hero deserved. Scotland didn’t either. Even Tommy Conway was denied a stunning winner at the death that would’ve changed the mood music for the Tartan Army.

Let’s just hope we’ve saved up our good fortune for the main event. The hard work has already been done for Germany. This was about tinkering around the fringes. Clarke knows pretty much 10 of his starting line-up for the big opener.

He knows who he can trust – and who he just cannot afford to lose at this stage. Most of those big beasts were out there last night. There was Robertson on his 71st cap – and a record 49th as skipper – along with John McGinn, Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour.

Scott McTominay was the one qualification hero missing as there was no chance Clarke was going to risk the Manchester United man at this stage as he shakes off the fag end of a niggle. There are not too many questions remaining. Che Adams looks nailed on to be the main man in the opener but Clarke knows what the frontman can do. Shankland has enjoyed a stormer of a season but still has to prove it at international level.

Lawrence Shankland of Scotland scores his team's second goal
Lawrence Shankland of Scotland scores his team's second goal -Credit:Getty Images

There were other issues. Anthony Ralston got an opportunity to stake his claim at right wing-back after Ross McCrorie got a run out against Gibraltar. Meanwhile, Grant Hanley is another one on the injury comeback trail and in desperate need of minutes. It was fair to say the big man looked a tad rusty at times early on. In fact, Scotland were a wee bit ragged at times as well.

There were a few first-half scares, especially when frontman Teemu Pukki got in behind inside the opening 20 minutes. Fortunately it was more like the Celtic Pukki than the Norwich one as he scooped over the bar.

In the main it was Scotland dominating the ball and there were some neat passages of play. The Robbo-Tierney-McGregor triangle looked sharp. Ryan Christie was doing a decent job bursting into the box from deep or spinning out wide to create space.

As usual, it was McGinn posing most of the threat and he was the one who got the first real sight of goal midway through the half – but his sand-wedge effort dipped over. Shankland seemed desperate to impress and he was kicking himself after sending a snapshot fizzing too high.

It was a half-chance at best but the Jambos man has a habit of burying the slightest sniff. Another one came his way soon after following a Jack Hendry gallop up the pitch but this time he got crowded out after pulling the trigger.

Lawrence Shankland celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0
Lawrence Shankland celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 -Credit:SNS Group

Shanks was trying to bring a bit of intensity but this clash could’ve done with a set of jump leads at times. Perhaps it was understandable with what is on the horizon and after what happened with Lyndon Dykes. The Tartan Army love a bit of blood and thunder – but the cotton wool all over the pitch made things far more subdued.

However, there was enough of a spark at the second half to suggest some words of mild encouragement from the gaffer. Gilmour forced a save with his volley, Ralston took a sore one in the delicates trying to barge in at the back post and Hendry took a winder at the rebound.

But Scotland were building up a head of steam – and the captain forced the opener after 54 minutes. It might have come off Finland’s Arttu Hoskonen but that was at the end of a cracking, incisive move where Gilmour fed Tierney and the Arsenal man slipped in Robertson to hit the byline.

And the party was finally up and running when Shankland made his breakthrough. This was much more like it. Robbo did the damage yet again, this time picking up the scraps from a wicked Ralston ball and sticking it right on the striker’s napper.

Shankland held off his man to sneak in behind and all of a sudden we had a proper sing-song on the go. Christie almost made it three soon after when he got the leap on his marker to get his header on target.

There was a roar when Conway was sent on for his big audition and Robertson was sent into a big box marked ‘Handle With Care’.

And there was another huge cheer when Gordon appeared for his big moment – only for the Finns to wreck when Dundee old boy Benjamin Kallman left the keeper with no chance from his header to pull one back. Worse was to come when Gordon crashed into Tomas Galvez to allow Oliver Antman to slam in a penalty. Conway almost pinched it but it’s all about Germany now – and hopefully we can use the open-top bus for when they get back.