Things have gone from bad to worse for Newcastle pair Matt Ritchie and Grant Hanley.
Rafa’s summer signings were lucky to get a last minute draw against Lithuania on Saturday and then last night in Trnava, a final score of Slovakia 3 Scotland 0 says it all.
Many Scotland supporters are already writing off their chances of World Cup qualifying with only four points from what looked an easy three game opening, Matt Ritchie and Grant Hanley next facing a trip to Wembley in a month’s time with their international colleagues.
The Scotland defence had been called into question at the weekend, particularly Grant Hanley, with Willie Miller just one of those who slaughtered the Newcastle defender’s performance.
Grant Hanley has started just one Championship match (1-0 defeat to Fulham) for Newcastle and on his international form it looks like clear why Rafa Benitez is staying well clear.
On Tuesday night it got much much worse as Hanley and his defensive partners were torn apart, the Newcastle man blamed in particular for the third goal when the man he was ‘marking’ scored unchallenged from a corner.
Neil McCann speaking to Sky Sports:
“The third goal of course is Grant Hanley. He could do better as well. You can’t let a striker come across of you.
“You have to be goal side and if it goes over your head then fair enough, you’re beaten by a taller man, but there’s lots of things he could do better.”
As for Matt Ritchie, he was subbed just over an hour into the game at 2-0 down, the third coming just four minutes after his departure.
Interestingly, it is the sixth time in Matt Ritchie’s seven competitive starts for his country when he has been subbed, only the 2-2 draw against Poland last October seeing him complete a full 90 minutes in a qualifier.
Whether the winger puts too much effort in to try and make up for Scotland’s lack of creativity, or whether he is viewed as having stamina issues (which is unlikely on what Newcastle fans have seen), is an unknown.
Hopefully the international disappointment won’t affect Ritchie’s (or Hanley’s if called upon…) efforts for Newcastle in the upcoming busy programme of matches (five in 15 days) before yet another international break.
Christian Atsu played in a 0-0 draw against Uganda in a World Cup qualifier for Ghana on Friday and then a 1-1 friendly draw against South Africa yesterday, in this international week.
Despite the extra travelling I think there must be every chance of Christian Atsu keeping his place on Saturday against Brentford after his man of the match display at Rotherham, whether Rafa will accommodate or start with Matt Ritchie on the bench remains to be seen.