Steve Clarke says he is “in for the fight” after Scotland’s remote hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2020 were emphatically ended in Moscow.
Scotland’s miserable campaign in the European Qualifiers continued as a second-half capitulation resulted in a 4-0 defeat in Russia.
David Marshall had rarely been troubled before three goals in 13 minutes around the hour mark made it five defeats in seven qualifiers for the visitors.
Artem Dzyuba netted following two corners – the second game running Scotland have conceded twice in the same circumstances – and Magomed Ozdoev thumped home from long range.
Aleksandr Golovin slotted home from 10 yards in the 84th minute to make it a second consecutive four-goal loss for Clarke’s side.
But the Scotland boss urged his squad to make sure they had hit a low point and start on an upward progression with three games left before the play-offs in March.
“Hard work, maybe one or two different selections in terms of squad as well as starting 11,” responded Clarke when asked what will be needed between now and a potential Euro 2020 play-off with Norway.
“We can’t keep conceding goals. You have to give a nod of your head to the quality of opposition we have faced recently in Belgium and Russia, two very good teams who I am sure will be involved in the latter stages of Euro 2020.
“But for us it’s trying to make sure this is the very, very bottom of the lowest and then build from here and make sure come March we are able to be very, very competitive and get through the play-offs and give ourselves the chance to be in the same championships.”
The former Kilmarnock boss, whose side have let in 13 goals in four matches, now face San Marino on Sunday with games still to come against Cyprus and Kazakhstan in Group I as Scotland look to build some much-needed confidence.
The visitors had their first-half moments without ever getting a shot away. Oliver Burke caused problems up to a point with his running with the ball, but his decision-making and execution let him down at the crucial moments.
Despite a disciplined opening 45 minutes, they conceded from Russia’s first attack of the second half, and things quickly went from bad to worse.
Clarke added: “We conceded a soft goal. The first goal is soft, from a corner. Man-on-man we have to do better.
“From there we quickly found our way out the game. We allowed the game to run away from us.
“I have to put it down to fragile confidence. The players seemed to lose heart very quickly, which is unfortunate because we had done OK up to that point.
“I think in all the games we’ve played there have been moments where you can see what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to get to. But, obviously, the results are dreadful. There’s no getting away from that. I’m not going to hide behind that, we have to do better.
“We have to make sure as a group of people working together we keep improving. And like I say this is the lowest of the low.
“On the back of a 4-0 defeat, off the back of two 4-0 defeats – yeah, it feels difficult. But I was brought up the hard way, I’m in for the fight and I think the players are in for the fight too.”