Scotland's Matt Ritchie lauds Robert Snodgrass influence

Robert Snodgrass
Robert Snodgrass is in good form for Scotland and Hull City having overcome a serious knee injury

Matt Ritchie says team-mate Robert Snograss's influence on the Scotland team runs much deeper than his goalscoring feat against Malta.

The Hull City midfielder, who missed most of the failed Euro 2016 qualifying campaign through injury, scored a hat-trick in Sunday's 5-1 defeat of Malta.

"It is only the second time I have met up with him," said winger Ritchie.

"But, as soon as Snoddy came back in, he has great energy and brings life to the squad."

Snodgrass has also been in excellent form on Hull's return to the Premier League in England, scoring twice for his club.

"It is fantastic having him back," said Newcastle United's Ritchie looking back on Sunday's World Cup qualifying at Ta' Qali Stadium.

"He scored a hat-trick and it was a fantastic performance.

"It is not just what he gives you on the pitch but off it as well."

Scotland were being held to a 1-1 draw by Group F's lowest-ranked team, but they took control after the break as Malta had two men sent off.

"The main message was to stay calm, carrying on doing what we had planned and get the ball wide," said Ritchie of head coach Gordon Strachan's half-time team talk.

Matt Ritchie in action against Malta
Matt Ritchie's pinpoint pass set up Chris Martin to score against Malta

"The first 10-15 minutes we controlled the game until we scored and then we let Malta back into the game, probably through our own fault rather than good play by them.

"But it was a fantastic result. The expectation was to win the game and sometimes that is tough to do when you go to these sort of places.

"But we are delighted with the three points and the performance as well."

Scotland head the group on goal difference from group favourites England, who won in Slovakia with an Adam Lallana strike deep into stoppage time.

"It is only one game, but we are going in the right direction," said Ritchie about the prospects of qualifying for the 2018 finals in Russia.

"It is going to be tough, but if we don't believe we can then no-one will.

"We will need a bit of luck along the way, like any team, but we are in good spirits and hopefully we will continue to perform well."

England's Peter Shilton moves in to save a shot from Scotland striker Ally McCoist
England's Peter Shilton prepares to save a shot from Scotland striker Ally McCoist in the Rous Cup match in May 1989, which England won 2-0

Meanwhile, former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton thinks Scotland should be his country's main challengers for top spot.

"If we don't win the group, there will be questions asked," England's most-capped player told BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound.

"They say there are no easy games, but I think it is a good group for Scotland and England to qualify.

"The opposition is okay, but I don't see any real problems if we perform the way we should do with the players we've got.

"I think Gordon Strachan's done a good job since he's been in charge of Scotland."

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