Scotland: Mixed fortunes for Anglos out to impress Gordon Strachan

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Robert Snodgrass (right) celebrates for Hull against Arsenal
Robert Snodgrass (right) scored for Hull City against Arsenal

Scotland head coach Gordon Strachan is finalising his squad ahead of the World Cup qualifying double header against Lithuania and Slovakia next month.

He was at McDiarmid Park on Saturday, watching St Johnstone's 1-0 victory over Hearts and monitoring Jack Hamilton, Callum Paterson and Tony Watt, who all played for the visitors.

The bulk of his squad will still, though, be selected from clubs in England, where there was mostly promising news over the weekend.

Solid performers

Several players completed a full 90 minutes for their clubs, including midfielder Darren Fletcher in West Bromwich Albion's 4-2 win over West Ham United in the Premier League and centre-back Russell Martin in Norwich City's 2-1 defeat of Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Another centre-back, Christophe Berra, played the full game as Ipswich Town drew 0-0 with Aston Villa, their fourth clean sheet in eight Championship games this season.

Andrew Robertson and Robert Snodgrass endured a difficult afternoon against Arsenal on Saturday, losing 4-1, although the latter continued his scoring form. The attacker struck from the penalty spot for his fourth Premier League goal in five games.

Midfielder Barry Bannan also played the full 90 minutes for Sheffield Wednesday in their 2-1 defeat by Birmingham City along with striker Steven Fletcher, who was involved in the build up to Gary Hooper's goal before being replaced in the 78th minute.

On the periphery

Defensive concerns continue for Strachan, since first-choice centre-back Grant Hanley was not involved for Newcastle United as they lost 2-0 to Wolves. That was despite his goalscoring appearance as a substitute in the 6-0 win over Queen's Park Rangers last midweek.

James McArthur (left) celebrates for Crystal Palace
James McArthur (left) scored for Crystal Palace against Stoke City

Gordon Greer played 81 minutes for Blackburn Rovers in their 4-2 win over Rotherham United but will not feature in his side's EFL Cup tie against Leeds United on Tuesday due to injury.

Alan Hutton remains out of the picture at Aston Villa. Despite Ritchie de Laet suffering a long-term injury, Hutton was overlooked for the vacant right-back spot by manager Roberto di Matteo at the weekend, with Leandro Bacuna starting the 0-0 draw with Ipswich instead. Hutton was an unused substitute.

Ross McCormack, whose exclusion from Strachan's last squad was widely questioned, also did not feature for Villa, although Di Matteo explained his absence by referring to it being the team's third game in six days.

Fellow striker Chris Martin is still waiting to score his first domestic goal of the season following Fulham's 0-0 draw with Wigan Athletic, with his only goal of the campaign so far coming for Scotland against Malta in the opening World Cup qualifier.

Winger Oliver Burke was an unused substitute for RB Leipzig as they defeated Hamburg 4-0, while Shaun Maloney fulfilled the same role for Hull City, which is unlikely to lead to him being recalled by Strachan.

Staking a claim

James McArthur made the most convincing case for being brought into the starting line-up against Lithuania at Hampden as he played the full 90 minutes for Crystal Palace and scored in their 4-1 win over Stoke City. The midfielder had to pull out of Strachan's last squad due to injury.

Ikechi Anya featured as a substitute against Malta and he is beginning to impress for Derby County, who the winger joined on loan from Watford at the end of the January transfer window. Anya scored his first goal for the club in the 1-1 draw with Bristol City.

Of the players not to have been called up for the last squad, Graham Dorrans is pushing for inclusion. The midfielder has started all of Norwich's last three games and scored the winning goal - his first of the season - in their victory over Nottingham Forest.

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