Belfast Telegraph

Scotland are ready to spark drab campaign into life: Martin

Scotland v Slovenia, World Cup Qualifier Group F: Hampden Park, Sunday, 7.45pm

By Gavin McCafferty

Scotland defender Russell Martin feels they have struggled to shake off their Euro 2016 disappointment - but claims victory over Slovenia would spark a revival.

A 5-1 win in Malta in their opening World Cup qualifier suggested Scotland had put their loss to Georgia and a fourth-placed finish in the Euro 2016 preliminaries behind them, but it proved a false dawn.

They have since scored only once, conceding seven, and taken one point from games against Lithuania, Slovakia and England to leave them in fifth spot in Group F, four points behind second-placed Slovenia.

Martin said: "The disappointment of not qualifying, when we played so well for the majority of the campaign, and one result probably cost us... that is disappointing and it's tough to take and we maybe haven't quite got over that quickly enough.

"But performances haven't been terrible. We have been one or two passes away, where it was clicking earlier on in the last campaign. We have been a fraction off it. But there's no one reason. If there was one reason, we would have rectified it.

"But we are working hard. Everyone still believes in what the manager wants to do.

"The most important thing is, regardless of what's gone on in the last three or four games, if we win on Sunday, we are right back in the mix and have a right chance of moving on up.

"We need a little spark in this campaign and hopefully Sunday will be it."

For some fans, the spark would come from a change in management - especially after the 1-1 friendly draw against Canada - but Martin refuses to countenance the consequences of defeat for Gordon Strachan.

"I don't think about that," the Norwich ace said. "I think we are going to win and move on. That's a bridge we'll have to cross if we don't get the result.

"But the manager has been fantastic to me and a lot of the lads in the squad. He has given most of us a chance, a lot of caps, and a few lads in the squad have played with him before."

Hampden is expected to be little over half full for the crucial encounter but Martin is confident they will not let any subdued atmosphere affect their performance.

The 31-year-old added: "Hopefully we put in a performance that makes sure next time we play it's full up.

"There's been a lot of negativity around. But we've got a big game, everyone needs to come together."

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