Belfast Telegraph

Success lifts pressure at Parkhead, says Chris Martin

By Ronnie Esplin

Chris Martin admits Scotland's European Championship qualifying win over the Republic of Ireland has taken the pressure off ahead of the friendly match against England tomorrow night.

A terrific goal by Shaun Maloney at Celtic Park on Friday evening took the Scots level with the Republic and Germany on seven points, three behind Group D leaders Poland, as the qualifiers go into abeyance until next March when group minnows Gibraltar, without a goal or a point in four fixtures, visit Hampden Park.

Asked if Scotland could enjoy the game against the Auld Enemy at Parkhead better knowing that three vital Euro points had been secured, the 26-year-old Derby striker said: "I think so. The pressure is off a little bit in that game.

"Hopefully we can go and enjoy ourselves and give the fans something to shout about again.

"It was a massive win, and obviously we will take massive confidence into the England game.

"Hopefully we will be on a high and so will the fans."

Suffolk-born Martin played for England Under-19s but qualifies for Scotland through his Glaswegian father and he made his debut as a substitute in the friendly against Nigeria at Craven Cottage in May.

The former Norwich player felt "privileged" to make his fourth appearance off the bench against the Irish, replacing Steven Fletcher after the break, in "one of the biggest occasions and biggest crowds I have played in front of".

While acknowledging the importance of three points against Martin O'Neill's side, Martin believes the bid to reach France in 2016 is likely to go to the last game of the campaign.

"There are still another few games to go and I think it will go down to the wire," he said. "There are good teams in this group and it has been said many times that it is probably the toughest group and games can be decided by one goal, a set-piece or a little bit of luck.

"We know it is going to be that tight. We need to make sure we concentrate on every single game and get as many points as we can and see where that takes us.

"I don't think we can worry too much about other teams.

"We need to focus on our own jobs and if we do that well enough then hopefully that will mean we qualify."

The only downside for Martin at Celtic Park was missing the target from a Steven Naismith cut-back.

"I should have done better," he said. "I was disappointed that I didn't score but thankfully Shaun got me out of jail a little bit with a great finish.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game because they had picked up a lot of points.

"I was perhaps a little bit surprised that they didn't play a bit more football but we stood up to it very well."

Belfast Telegraph