Scotland vs Gibraltar: Gordon Strachan gives Ikechi Anya belief to shine

The Watford winger put in a fine performance in his country's 1-0 win over Northern Ireland

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The Independent Football

Ikechi Anya has put the confidence he gets when pulling on a Scotland shirt down to the encouragement of manager Gordon Strachan.

The 27-year-old winger has started only one of Watford’s last seven matches, but showed again how at home he is on the international stage with a fine performance, especially in the first half, in Scotland’s 1-0 win over Northern Ireland at Hampden Park on Wednesday.

Anya exuded belief in the early stages and had several attempts on goal, one of which was saved by the impressive Hamilton goalkeeper Michael McGovern, as well as setting up chances, although it took a late Christophe Berra header from debutant Matt Ritchie’s corner to give the home side victory.

“I put it down to the gaffer,” Anya said. “He tells me all the time that I am in the team to try to get at players. Even in training sometimes, when I don’t attack the full-back, he is having a go at me.

“He gives me a lot of confidence and I just like to repay him with good performances,” he added.

“After the four-month break since the game against England, everyone was itching to get on the pitch. All of us wanted to start and I was one of the lucky ones who did.

“In the first half we really played well and we should have had a few goals, myself included, and it was a relief to get the win.”

Anya believes trying to break down a defensive Northern Ireland side was ideal preparation for Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar at Hampden.

While the Scots sit in third place in Group D with seven points from four games, Uefa’s newest members are bottom with no points and no goals with the concession of 21, and are sure to arrive at the national stadium in defensive mode.

“The staff have pinpointed Gibraltar’s weaknesses and strengths and we know how they are going to play,” the former Wycombe and Northampton player said.

“They are going to be quite compact. The first goal is going to be important and, if we can get that early on, hopefully we can have enjoy the afternoon. But the important thing is to break them down,” Anya continued.