Scotland boss Steve Clarke was in no mood to blame a World Cup hangover for a humbling Nations League defeat by the Republic of Ireland.
Three days after launching their campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Armenia, the Scots succumbed tamely in Dublin as Stephen Kenny’s men belatedly opened their account with a 3-0 win.
The result represented another setback coming as it did 10 days after their heartbreaking play-off semi-final exit at the hands of Ukraine, but Clarke was convinced there was no lingering emotional impact from that disappointment.
He said: “I don’t think so. The performance midweek against Armenia was good, we were bright enough in the camp. Obviously it’s two big hits in a short space of time and we have to deal with it, move on because we have another game on Tuesday and we have to be ready for that.”
Scotland now head for the heat of Yerevan determined to make Armenia pay for their bad night in Ireland, but knowing they will have to be significantly better than they were at the Aviva Stadium.
Both Clarke and his players were at a loss to explain exactly why they performed so badly against a side which had not won in 12 attempts in the competition and had tasted victory in only two of their previous 17 competitive games.
Asked about the mood in the dressing room, he said: “Flat as a pancake, as you would expect, flat as a pancake. They’re at a loss as well to explain why the performance was so poor. Sometimes after a game, you just have to hold your counsel, have a sleep, think about it. Tomorrow we’ll speak.”
Both Scotland and Ireland had set out in the campaign aiming to claim top spot in League B Group 1 and if Kenny’s men looked to have blown their chances by losing in Armenia and at home to Ukraine, Scottish hopes have now also been dented.
Asked how big a challenge that would be, Clarke said: “It’s going to be a bigger challenge than it was before we started this game, that’s for sure.”
But when it was suggested that the defeat in Dublin would ramp up the pressure in Armenia, he added: “There’s pressure on every game when you play for your country. There was pressure on this game.
“We have to go there and we have to get three points. But if we’d got three points today, we would still be going there under pressure to get three points. We want to do as well as we can in the group and to do that, we have to get three points every time we go on to the pitch.”