Scotland 1-0 Slovenia: Gordon Strachan hails match-winner Chris Martin
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan praised substitute Chris Martin after he shrugged off being booed to score a late match-winner against Slovenia.
Martin came on to jeers with eight minutes left and the Scots’ World Cup qualifying hopes hanging by a thread.
But an 88th-minute winner from the on-loan Fulham striker salvaged a deserved win to lift Scotland to within two points of second-placed Slovakia.
“It was a sweet moment for him and the players,” Strachan said.
“Everybody knows we deserved to win that game tonight.
“Kenny Dalglish used to get booed. Alan Hansen used to get booed. Gary McAlister used to get booed. It is a great club to be involved in, If you can line up with those guys, then fantastic.
“Everyone here understands what he [Martin] brings to a team. Some people can’t see it, which is understandable.
“I don’t understand cricket too much. But if you don’t understand the game, then you have a problem understanding what players are all about.”
Martin started last Wednesday’s friendly against Canada but was replaced up front against Slovenia by Leigh Griffiths, who hit the bar and post in the first half before being forced off injured early in the second.
Steven Naismith came on for Griffiths, but it was Martin, 28, who fired home a dramatic left-foot winner to raise Scotland spirits before they host group leaders England at Hampden on 10 June.
“I’m not going to tell [the fans] what they should be thinking or how they should be feeling,” Martin said.
“Hopefully they enjoy the three points tonight and there’s a bit more optimism heading into the England game now.
“We always work hard for the manager and for each other and the country. The manager has shown faith in just about every single one of us.
“We knew it was a must-win game and in the circumstances I think it was a very good performance.
“This can be a real turning point for us. We’re right back in the mix, a couple of points off second place, and there’s no better game next up.”
‘They pushed themselves to another level’
Strachan acknowledged the first-half performance was “probably” the best Scotland have played under him, and described Celtic midfielder Stuart Armstrong’s display as “the best Scotland debut I have ever seen”.
“He did well but there were other guys who were special as well,” added the head coach.
“We had to have special performances because we played against a very good, physical side, and the stress that goes with it as well.
“The players did everything they were asked to tonight. They pushed themselves to another level there. I was calm enough, thinking ‘what will be, will be’.
“I was enjoying their performance – technically, fitness wise and their mental strength.
“The points were the most important thing and the performance and everything else helps as well.
“The players have got a feeling they can go and match quite a few international teams now.
“They detached themselves from the emotion of the game to produce things.
“When you are smaller, as we are, you have to be really brave on the ball when you are up against people five or six inches taller than you. So I was really pleased with that. It was a proud performance from us all.”