Strachan’s 90 minute men

Gordon Strachan wants Scotland to be 90-minute men in their already-crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Tuesday night.

The Scotland boss was happy with most of the 5-1 win in Malta in their Group F opener and the second half of the 1-1 draw against Lithuania at Saturday, which required an 89th-minute leveller from substitute James McArthur.

Strachan confirmed he will make personnel changes for the game in Trnava against the section’s second seeds, who are smarting after losing their opening two fixtures, while captain Darren Fletcher will have a fitness test on a thigh injury.

The former Celtic manager, speaking at the Scotland hotel in Bratislava, said: “So far, of the two games, three quarters has been good.

“In the Malta game, apart from a couple of minutes in the game, it was good, professional, I liked it.

“The second half the other day, a lot of crosses, chances, excitement, we got that.

“So three quarters have been good so we have to take it into 90 minutes tomorrow.”

Strachan believes his side have shown they have the mettle to deal with set-backs as they prepare for what he believes will be “a different game” to the one which frustrated the Tartan Army at the weekend.

“The ball won’t be going so long and it was not just Lithuania, we joined in as well,” he said.

“There was a few good performances, their attitude was first-class again, going a goal down to come back and they dealt with the body blow of the goal in Malta.

“So we have that in our locker, we can deal with that.

“We would like to create the shots, crosses and chances we had in the second half against Lithuania, away from home, that would be good.

“But we try every time to win the game, there is absolutely no doubt about that.

“It is very rarely you see us going for a draw. We are going to go for a win, the players know that. If it is a draw it is a draw and we deal with that.”

Since former Scotland defender Steven Pressley returned from scouting Slovakia’s 1-0 defeat in Slovenia, Strachan has had to have a “real good rethink” about tactical plans he had been carrying in his head since this summer’s Euros in France.

“They have changed dramatically since the two games I’d seen them in the European championships,” he said.

“I think I could have wasted my time going there but I enjoyed the fans and the Welsh fans in particular were good fun, sharing a plane with them.

“But I saw them there and it was basically a 4-3-3 with two wide men.

“I thought about that for the last couple of months – no wide men any more. It has changed a bit.

“But Steven Pressley was out having a look at them and brought back great information.

“Kenny with the video analysis put a lot of stuff together on Saturday night, Sunday morning and we had a look at that on Sunday night.

“The players know that it has changed a bit but we have to be on our toes, it might change again.”

Strachan described Scotland’s section as a “strange, strange group”.

However, with England already at the top with six points from six, he knows how difficult it will be to overtake them and grab the automatic qualification spot for Russia.

“I think most of us expect, the footballing world, that England would win it,” said the former Scotland midfielder.

“But as I said it’s a crazy gang here in this group we have got so you never know.

“Second, yes. We will definitely go and try and get second at least and if we end up getting first then great.

“But second is our target as we sit here. I don’t think it has changed in the last two games.

“I think if you said to us, realistically, then second is a target for us.”

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