IT was the most concerning moment of what was an otherwise uneventful friendly match against Luxembourg for Scotland head coach Steve Clarke.

But at the same time it was the most uplifting.

When Olivier Thill barged cynically into the back of Billy Gilmour in the second-half of the match in the Josy Barthel Stadium yesterday it was immediately obvious to anyone looking on that the midfielder was hurt.

The Chelsea player, who had celebrated with his team mates in Porto eight days earlier after the Stamford Bridge club had lifted the Champions League, required several minutes of treatment from medical staff and eventually had to leave the field as a precaution.

Clarke was, having been impressed by the contribution the gifted teenager had made after replacing Callum McGregor in the centre of the park, understandably worried.

Still, the response of his charges to the challenge – they reacted furiously, stepped in to ensure that Gilmour was alright, surrounded Thill to make their displeasure known and remonstrated with the match official in numbers – was pleasing.

It showed the former Chelsea and Scotland left back that his men, even the ones who had only joined up with his squad for the first time 10 days earlier when they flew out of Glasgow for a warm weather training camp in Spain, had developed a close bond and were prepared to fight for one another.

With the opening Euro 2020 match against the Czech Republic looming at Hampden just eight days away, the it suggested to Clarke that they were ready to go into battle.

“It is one of these things that happens in football,” he said. “The reaction of the players around it was good. They offered a bit of protection and showed we’re together.”

Clarke, who hails from Salcoats, quipped that Gilmour, who comes from nearby Ardrossan, was a tough lad because the area he group up in. But his players clearly have that quality in abundance. It augurs well for the forthcoming fortnight. 

That Scotland only beat a Luxembourg side which had been reduced to 10 men in the first-half - Vahid Selimovic was ordered off for a tug on Lyndon Dykes as the forward bore down on goal - by a single Che Adams goal was far from impressive.

An emphatic victory would have lifted the spirits and raised the hopes of a nation ahead of the Group D matches against the Czech Republic, England and Croatia.

Still, the former Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool assistant was pleased with much of what he had witnessed during the 90 minutes and the mindset of his players ahead of their first appearance in the finals of a major tournament since France ’98. 

Clarke added: “We had lots of chances. (Lyndon) Dykes is in there disappointed that he didn’t get the match ball to be honest with you. He had so many chances. Che (Adams) had a few as well.

“But it was nice to work with the two strikers as I wanted to have a look at them in one of the two games so it was nice to have a look at them.

“I wanted to have a look at the midfield tonight with John McGinn and Scott McTominay available to play so that was interesting to see as well. Obviously there were some minutes and more game time for some of the players who required it as well.

“The young boys who have come in have all done well. They have taken part in the group, they have taken part in the training, they have made contributions, they have got their caps now. They have all come into the group and put a bit more pressure on the senior ones that are there.”

Clarke had started with Liam Cooper and Jack Hendry alongside Kieran Tierney in his three man defence in the friendly against the Netherlands in Portugal last Wednesday and yesterday he gave Declan Gallagher and Grant Hanley the opportunity to show him what they offered.

The centre backs displays will have given him food for thought. As, for that matter, will Scott McKenna, who came on in the second-half. But the manager believes he has intense competition in every position.

“I have selection headaches all over the pitch,” he said. “The boys that played midfield the other night against Holland were really good, I enjoyed that midfield three, I enjoyed the way they played. We had a different midfield tonight.

“Listen, I have headaches all over the pitch, I said last week that I wanted headaches – everyone fighting, everyone with a viable chance of being involved in the three games. That’s what we need, everyone ready.

“You never know what will happen now, like the little scare with Covid, pick up a couple of injuries in certain positions, everyone has to be ready. You saw tonight, when they come in they know what they are doing. That’s really important.”

Clarke handed Nathan Patterson, who had missed the match with the Dutch as a result of the positive coronavirus test that John Fleck had returned in Spain, his Scotland debut and feels even the Rangers right, who came on for Stephen O’Donnell of Motherwell, has a chance.  

“They have all given me something to think about,” he said. “It was good to get Nathan on the pitch. He has trained well and he deserves his first cap – I am sure it is the first of many.”

Members of the Tartan Army will be hoping the Luxembourg triumph is the first of many that Scotland record this month – and the national team can progress to the knockout rounds of a major tournament for the first time in their history as a result.

Andy Robertson and his team mates will have to do far better in attack than they did yesterday, but there is much for his compatriots to be optimistic about following an encouraging preparation for the Euro 2020 finals.