IT is difficult to know just who is more relieved that the seemingly interminable Scotland camp at the end of a long, hard season is finally over; the exhausted players or the weary supporters.

Certainly, Steve Clarke will be hugely relieved that his team managed to round off the four-match programme with a morale-boosting win over Armenia, in a tie that had banana skin potential even before considering what had gone before.

The Scotland manager was candid enough to concede in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s triumph in Yerevan that despite the win, the four-game sequence had been a disappointment. Even though the triumph, along with the Republic of Ireland’s draw with Ukraine, leaves the international team in a very decent position going into the concluding UEFA Nations League fixtures in September.

Scotland will face Ukraine both home and away – the latter tie likely to be played in Poland – as well as the Republic of Ireland at home. Trailing the Ukrainians by just a point, the prospect of finishing top of the section, and securing a play-off for the European Championships as well as a place in pot two of the seedings for the qualification group proper, is a live one.

Such perspective may come to Clarke in time, and a little while longer down the road, to the Tartan Army. There is little doubt though that in the here and now, the main takeaway from the two matches in this run against Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland is that this Scotland team is far from the finished article. Not that Clarke has ever claimed them to be, in fairness.

Still, was it unrealistic to have expected more from Scotland in the World Cup play-off semi-final and in the humiliating reverse in Dublin? No. The Scots were so far short of the standards they have set themselves in both matches that it was something of a shock. Victims of their own relative success in that regard, perhaps, but it was stark nevertheless just how poor Scotland were in those defeats.

Although a decent share of the blame for that must lie with some underperforming, and frankly tired-looking players, Clarke can’t escape criticism for some of his team selections and formation choices.

In all of the matches in this run, Clarke opted to stick with the three-man defence, despite the absence of Kieran Tierney, who it seems is integral to the system functioning as it is intended to.

The biggest surprise perhaps though was that for the Ukraine match – by some distance the most important game of the four – he decided to go with two men up front, throwing Lyndon Dykes up top alongside Che Adams.

The thinking behind that perhaps was to exploit a weakness Ukraine had displayed in defending set-pieces, but in open play, it simply resulted in confusion between the Scottish players, with the visitors playing around a woefully disjointed Scotland press with ease.

One of the main weaknesses displayed over all of the four matches was apparent here too, with the Ukrainians opening goal coming from a simple ball over the top of the defence, a rudimentary ploy that caused havoc whenever it was employed against Clarke’s backline – no matter the personnel in place.

Even in the 2-0 win over Armenia at Hampden that followed the World Cup exit, there were a couple of hairy moments caused by simple lumps over the top. In Ireland, it cost the second of their three goals, in possibly the worst overall performance of Clarke’s reign. And in the first half of the 4-1 win in Yerevan, there were multiple opportunities created by the hosts in similarly alarming fashion.

It probably didn’t help that due to a combination of choice and injury concerns that the same back three didn’t play in any of the four matches. Scott McTominay’s place in the defence remains a point of contention, with his lack of natural defensive instincts being cited as a weakness and his ability to bring the ball out from the back an undoubted strength.

The only clean sheet in this run came with a defence of John Souttar, Jack Hendry and Scott McKenna, at home to Armenia. Grant Hanley was at the heart of the defence in the other three matches, and despite an impressive upturn in form from the Norwich man over the past 12 months or so in a Scotland jersey, some of his old weaknesses were evident once more in these games. No more so than when he was beaten far too easily for Armenia to open the scoring on Tuesday night, a point where Clarke’s position – remarkably given the overall progress in the last three years - looked to be entering perilous territory.

Thankfully for the manager and his team, they managed to turn it around, albeit they were aided by a self-inflicted Armenian wound as defender Arman Hovhannisyan was crazily sent off with the score tied at 1-1.

At the very least, the win means that Clarke should avoid any serious questions about his job over the summer, and he has earned the right to take the team forward despite the various disappointments and creeping doubts that have been raised over these matches.

And on the positive front, the UEFA Nations League is still there for the taking, while Anthony Ralston has emerged as another real option on the right-hand side. Stuart Armstrong has impressed, while Allan Campbell was given a debut as Clarke looks to drip-feed in some members of the next generation.

Looking towards September, Clarke must hope that Tierney is back to fitness, and key performers like Andy Robertson, McGinn and Adams have found something like their best form once again.

The summer, he has said, will also be a period of introspection, as he looks to identify, address and rectify the errors he made during these matches.

Scotland fans will hope that lessons will have been learned, and the past few weeks have been but an unwelcome bump on the road back from the international wilderness that Clarke seemed to have set the national team on.