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Steve Clarke targets Northern Ireland win to end Scotland’s winless run after Netherlands defeat

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Steve Clarke revealed the Scotland players had to pick him up following Friday’s 4-0 friendly defeat against Netherlands in Amsterdam.

The visitors more than matched their more illustrious opponents for the best part of 70 minutes but a sobering scoreline extended the Scots’ winless runs to six games.

Ahead of the friendly against Northern Ireland at Hampden Park, which also acts as part of the build-up to this summer’s Euro 2024 in Germany, Clarke reflected on a “peculiar game”.

Clarke said: “They (the players) have had to pick me up.

“I tend to sulk a little bit longer than they do, they move on a little bit quicker than I do because I probably have a little bit more to think about than they have.

“They have reacted well. When we had the de-brief about the game, they understood the points I was making, they will take the messages on board and hopefully we can show we are improving.

“Within 24 to 36 hours, you are ready for the next game, you are looking for the next game.

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Scotland lost 4-0 in Amsterdam against the Netherlands – a sixth successive game without a win

“I get the feeling, I get the mood amongst the players that they just want the chance to get on the pitch on Tuesday night and look to improve and maybe put right the things that went wrong for us in the last stages of the game on Friday night.

“A win would be nice, a clean sheet would be nice as well. We want to play well and obviously we want to win.

“If I am being honest, a win is probably more important but I think we can get both and I have no doubt we will get both.”

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Manchester United and Scotland midfielder Scott McTominay discusses recent results, his evolving role with the national team, improvements ahead of Euro 2024 and more

The Scots have now lost friendlies to European heavyweights France, England and Netherlands as well as a qualifier against Spain but Clarke believes those experiences have been beneficial.

The former West Brom and Kilmarnock boss said: “All the games we have played, the friendly matches against difficult opposition and obviously two difficult matches against Spain in the qualifiers, they have served us well.

“We are still searching for that improvement that can close the gap a little bit on the top sides in Europe.

“Hopefully as we are striving to reach the top sides, we are looking to move further away from the sides that are seeded below us.

“That has to be our objective all the time. We are a pot two team now, but we have to be a better pot two team and eventually we have to try latch on to the pot one teams, that has to be the aim.

“There was a lot that we did like, a lot of what we spoke about in training we transferred to the pitch and it worked well for a long time in the game.

“When you stop doing what you have been working on and switch off towards the end of the game, against the top teams especially, you get punished and you get punished heavily and that’s what happened.”

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Sky Sports reporter Mark Benstead discusses who could start against Northern Ireland as Scotland trained ahead of the friendly at Hampden Park

Clarke is looking forward to taking on Michael O’Neill’s side, who are fresh from an encouraging 1-1 draw away to Romania on Friday night.

He said: “They are a young team, progressive team, Michael is quite good at talking his team down but they are very competitive. They don’t lose games by a big margin.

“They beat Denmark 2-0 at Windsor Park in their last qualifier and we got a little bit excited when we beat Denmark 2-0 at Hampden.

“They went to Romania which is a tough place to go with a young side and got a good 1-1 draw so we expect a tough challenge.”

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