STEVE Clarke has challenged his Scotland players to make it a hat-trick of consecutive wins for the first time in two years when they complete their Euro 2020 preparations against Kazakhstan at Hampden Park on Tuesday night.

The 56-year-old from Saltcoats acknowledges his Scotland side are still a “work in progress” but there was guarded satisfaction with the 2-1 win his side recorded against Cyprus in Nicosia yesterday which moved them into third place in Group I. While the three points helped gather momentum after 6-0 rout of San Marino in October, the Scots struggled at times and the win contained a slice of good fortune when an early Giorgos Efrem strike which rebounded off the crossbar was wrongly adjudged not to have crossed the line. The men’s national team hasn’t won three consecutive international matches since the tail end of Gordon Strachan’s time in charge.

“I can say we’re on the right track all the time, but the proof will be in the pudding come March,” added Clarke. “It’s four months away and as I’m learning in international football you have to deal with the breaks. Hopefully everyone will be fit and available. If we win on Tuesday night, we’ll go into the first play-off game on the back of three wins, which would be great. It would be the first time in two years, so that’s another target for us.”

While Efrem eventually got on the scoresheet to cancel out Ryan Christie’s sublime opener, Scotland promptly hit back with John McGinn’s close-range finish from a Greg Taylor cross enough to win the day. With the result building on October’s 6-0 win against San Marino

“I’m not going to sit here and say it was a fantastic performance,” said Clarke. “It was a good performance. And sometimes when you are coming out of the run of games we are coming out of, it’s more important to win than the performance.”

While Clarke wasn’t convinced the whole ball was over the line during that early Efrem chance, Ran Ben Shimon was adamant that the incident was the “decisive moment in the game”. “To lead after six minutes would have been crucial,” he said. “It was half a metre inside. I never speak about referees but it was a poor performance. We prepared for long balls, but not that amount of long balls. I have respect for opponents but the better team lost.”

Meanwhile, Clarke allayed injury concerns over Steven Naismith, after the striker – proud to captain the country on the occasion of his 50th cap -went down clutching his leg and was substituted immediately afterwards. "Steven is fine," Clarke said. "The substitution was already going ahead."