It would be nice to play it cool and pretend we saw it coming all along. But let’s face it, we’d be fooling no one.
Steve Clarke and his players were perhaps the only ones who truly believed their Euro 2020 dream could be rekindled here at Wembley rather than washed out and extinguished in the lashing rain.
Three days after a nation was reunited with abject misery this was supposed to provide the final, crushing proof that Clarke has gone and got us out of our depth at this level.
Instead, Scotland left the English capital last night with a first Group D point and with aspirations soaring higher than the big arch lighting up London’s night sky.
Pride restored and a point proved. It turns out this great adventure may only be beginning rather than coming to its expected, agonisingly early end.
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When Clarke’s team sheet came off the press at Hampden on Monday afternoon the raised-eyebrow reaction set the tone for what was to become a torturous test of endurance.
And the eyebrows were upwardly mobile again last night as soon as his selection was unwrapped. But in a very different way.
The confirmation that Kieran Tierney was fit to start coupled with the excitement of seeing Billy Gilmour unleashed in midfield, along with a recall for Callum McGregor to add precisely the kind of composure and craft which was so sorely missing against the Czechs.
That Che Adams was also given the nod to start up front alongside Lyndon Dykes was the icing on Clarke’s cake.
Suddenly – and quite unexpectedly – some of the simmering dread that had been bubbling away in the pit of Scottish stomachs for most of the week was giving way to a sense of anticipation. It was even bordering on excitement.
Not that it felt particularly wise to admit to it. A quick glance at the names on the other side of the halfway line helped temper any temptation to do so.
Yes, Gareth Southgate flipped his full-backs around, giving starts to Reece James and Luke Shaw, but his main men stayed put.
An array of havoc-wreakers in Harry Kane, Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling, backed up by the midfield muscle of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice.
On paper this is not the kind of team Scotland would want to mess with. But this was neither the time nor the place for faint hearts in dark blue shirts.
Then, with Scottish voices swirling high up to meet the driving rain, it started – and started well. Big Grant Hanley dealt with Sterling’s first dart over the half way line.
John McGinn won the first tackle in the midfield. And Adams squeezed off the first shot of the night after Gilmour had linked slickly with Stephen O’Donnell down the right.
The striker’s effort was blocked by John Stones but, even so, these were good early messages being sent out.
Yes, after 10 minutes of being rattled by this barrage of aggression England’s talent began to settle into the contest.
And as soon as they did they rattled the frame of David Marshall’s goal when Stones arrived at the other end to bullet a header from Mount’s corner. England’s Chelsea midfielder then stabbed another chance wide of Marshall’s near post after the slippery Sterling had popped the ball through the legs of Scott McTominay.
But this was a knee-jerk reaction to Scotland’s feistiness rather than a sustained statement of superiority.
If anything, the longer the first half continued, the more England’s uncertainty was being exposed. Yes, Clarke’s strategy still involved hitting Dykes early and long but unlike Monday it was mixed up by controlled phases of passing through a midfield which, with Gilmour ticking over with such a sense of style, always appeared to be in control of what it was attempting to do.
The more they popped the ball around between themselves the more surprised England’s players appeared to become. This was not the Scotland they had expected.
And in 29 minutes Clarke’s men came agonisingly close to claiming the goal this first-half performance deserved after a move rich in quality.
It began down the left of course, with the driving Tierney overlapping Andy Robertson for the first time and standing up a cross to the back post.
It drifted further than he had expected but dropped on to the boot of O’Donnell who let fly on the volley and forced a fine,
one-handed save from Jordan Pickford.
The ball ricocheted off the keeper’s right hand and spun into the air only an inch or two too high for Adams to knock it into an empty net.
The Southampton man stretched and just about got his head on it but his straining effort came down wide of Pickford’s right-hand post.
As a result, England escaped inside at the break but with murmurings of discontent now boiling over into boos. Southgate’s players came back out looking to do something about it.
In a flurry of activity Tierney had to hook one clear after the galloping Shaw breached Scotland’s defences, Foden had another booted off his toe inside the six-yard box and then Marshall had to dive to his right to claw out a pinging Mount drive.
James also let one rip over the bar from the edge of the box but Scotland’s players were prepared for a reaction and able to ride it out before settling back into their own stride. And they had the England defence creaking again before the hour when Mings was spooked into a clumsy challenge and allowed Dykes to skip around him towards the box.
The Aussie-born striker’s shot was charged down but appeared to pinball perfectly into the path of Adams only for it to get caught under his studs at the crucial moment just 10 yards from goal.
It was stomach-churning stuff now.
Then, in 61 minutes, England couldn’t cope with an inswinging Robertson corner, Dykes smashed his laces through the scraps at the back post and James had to head off the line and it began to feel like a movie we might have seen before.
Enter golden boy Jack Grealish stage right, with his flowing hair and film-star looks, thrown on as a sub for the largely ineffectual Foden. And Scotland’s latest heartbreak story seemed all set up.
Only this time – for once – the happy ending was ours after all. This time the recriminations belong to the noisy neighbours.
And it will make for an enjoyable listen.