STEVE Clarke last night admitted Scotland need a result against Belgium at Hampden on Monday evening to keep their slim hopes of qualifying for the Euro 2020 finals automatically alive.

The national team squandered an early lead in their Group I match against Russia to crash to a 2-1 defeat - their third in five games - and fall six points adrift of their second-placed opponents.

Clarke admitted he was surprised at how nervous his players became after John McGinn had netted and revealed he could make extensive changes for the meeting with Roberto Martinez’s team.

However, the manager, who was only taking charge of his third match, denied that the country’s chances of finishing in the top two in their section and booking a place in next summer’s finals were over.

Beating rivals who are currently in first place in the official FIFA World Rankings and who defeated them 3-0 in Brussels back in June will be a tall order - but he has targeted either a draw or a victory.

Asked how he assessed Scotland’s chances of qualifying after the defeat, Clarke said: “More difficult than it was before. We spoke earlier this week about the three difficult games we have coming up.

“Monday night is beginning to look like a game we have to get something out of – whether it is one point or three – to have a realistic chance of getting out of the group.

“Everybody loves the term must-win. If we get one point on Monday night and three points in Russia (in Moscow next month) there are still enough points to get something out of the group. Rather than say it is a must-win let’s say it is a game we have to get something out of.”

Clarke was disappointed with how the Scotland players performed after McGinn had scored his first international goal in the 10th minute of the match and with how they had gifted Russia their goals with mistakes.

“That is the biggest disappointment – we gave the ball away quite cheaply,” he said. “We seemed to become quite nervous on the ball for some reason. It is something that we have to address. We didn’t have enough threat going forward once we had the lead. We huffed and puffed going forward towards the end of the game, but we didn’t look like scoring.

“Russia started the second-half better than we did, that’s for sure. I thought we had weathered the storm and then we lose a really poor goal – there were a lot of players out of position. I thought we had weathered their start and were starting to get a foothold in the game again.

"You have to wait and see how the players turn up tomorrow morning, whether we have any knocks or niggles. It’s a short turnaround between two difficult games.

"We will assess the players in the morning and decide. I think the last time I made five changes between the Cyprus and Belgium games and two of them were enforced. It could be something similar again."

Clarke added: “You have to believe there’s a solution of course. It’s only my third game in. I am learning about the players, I am learning all the time. Within the group of players I believe we have enough talent to be competitive. We have good players. We will have to look at whether it is a mental thing or a quality thing and assess it

“You have to respect the qualities off the opposition. They were good – once we allowed them to get back into he game. They are a very good incisive counter-attacking team and we saw that tonight.

"But we took our foot off the gas and gave Russia the momentum. I don’t know if we thought we could sit back and defend our lead for the rest of the game. It’s a disappointing result after such a bright, promising start. It just seemed as though we panicked a little bit.

“We were caught in possession and were nervous with the ball. Suddenly, we couldn’t hold the ball. There are a lot of things to work on and, ultimately, it’s a disappointing night.

“We felt we prepared well for the game and the start showed we probably had. We got on top and got ourselves in front but then for a reason I’ve not yet determined we stepped off the game and allowed Russia to dominate us. They were able to put their style of play on us which was ultimately disappointing."

Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said: “I am very satisfied with the way that we started playing as we planned after we concede the first goal. We fulfilled our plan. We knew the Scottish team were going to be playing heavily with the wings. I am very happy that we showed our character and won.

"We now have 12 points, Scotland have six points. But we still have five games to go and 15 points to play for. We are going to be fighting until we get the place we want. But I was always saying my players were the best and today they showed they are the best.”