SCOTLAND edged to a nervous 2-0 win over minnows San Marino here in Serravalle this evening with an error-strewn and unconvincing display that did little to ease the mounting pressure on their manager Alex McLeish.

An early goal by Kenny McLean, his first for his country, got the national team, who were looking to bounce back after opening their Euro 2020 campaign with a 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan away on Thursday night, off to a positive start.

But McLeish’s men struggled to create and convert chances after that and occasionally looked in danger of conceding a goal and suffering an ignominious draw against rivals with a population smaller than that of Falkirk.

Franco Varrella’s men, who have only ever won one game in their history and who are bottom of the FIFA world rankings, had chances to net during the course of the 90 minutes and also had a claim for a spot kick waved away in the second-half.

When Johnny Russell, who also opened his account at international level, netted with 16 minutes of regulation time remaining the relief in the away dugout and among the travelling supporters was palpable.

It was the fourth time that Scotland had played San Marino in a competitive fixture in Serravalle - and the fourth time they have only managed to record a 2-0 triumph.

But this sloppy performance and result – which will be meaningless to Scotland’s hopes of reaching the Euro 2020 finals as matches against the bottom-placed side in six team sections are disregarded at the end of the campaign – will do nothing to convince a growing number of sceptical supporters that McLeish is the right man for the job.

Scotland were booed at half-time and full-time and the displeasure among the members of the Tartan Army who had travelled to San Marino see their team play was easily detectable throughout. The watching members of the SFA board were also singled out for abuse.

McLeish sprang a couple of surprises in his starting line-up by bringing in McLean of Norwich City and Russell of Sporting Kansas City. The introduction of Andy Robertson, Stephen O’Donnell, Ryan Fraser and even Callum Paterson up front had been expected. But McLean and Russell? Nobody had seen their involvement coming.

Scott McTominay, the Manchester United midfielder, and John Souttar, the Hearts centre half, and John Fleck, who has enjoyed such fine form for Sheffield United in recent months, will have been bitterly disappointed not t get the nod.

As well as making six changes – Liam Palmer, Graeme Shinnie, John McGinn, James Forrest, Oliver Burke and Oliver McBurnie all dropped out - there was a change of formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1. McLean and Callum McGregor were deployed as deep-lying midfielders.

McLean didn’t take long to justify his shock inclusion. He volleyed just over in only the third minute and opened the scoring two minutes later. He stooped down and met a cross from Fraser on the left with a glancing header and diverted the ball beyond San Marino keeper Elia Benedettini. It was his first international goal on the occasion of his sixth cap.

Scotland had played three times in Serravalle previously and had never, in the course of recording three identical 2-0 wins, never once netted in the first-half. It was just as well that the former Aberdeen man broke the deadlock so early on. Their hosts sat back and played for long spells with nine men strung out across their penalty box.

Stuart Armstrong, fortunate to retain his place after a poor showing in three days earlier, could have built on the visitors’ tally in the 21st minute after being supplied by Russell. But Benedettini produced a fine double save to deny him. Fraser shelled a free-kick way high the crossbar shortly after.

Marc McNulty, the Hibernian forward who had won his first cap against Kazakhstan three days earlier, replaced Paterson after the Cardiff City man suffered a head injury attempting to win a high ball into the San Marino area. But the Reading loanee was unable to make an impact. There were far too many misplaced passes and bad decisions, in the final third especially, and not enough composure in possession.

San Marino had their opportunities. Jose Hirsch shot into the side netting of Scott Bain’s goal and Mirko Palazzi fired wide with an ambitious long-range effort in the first-half. As the game wore on, the away supporters, who made up by far the majority of the crowd grew increasingly more silent. Jeers rang out around the ground as Austrian referee Manuel Schuettengruber blew his whistle for half-time.

Matters didn’t improve greatly in the second-half. San Marino had a penalty claim waved away in the 52nd minute when Filippo Berardi went down following a challenge by McKenna. The Scotland players breathed a sigh of relief when the match official, rightly as there had been minimal contact, waved play on. Palazzi, though, fired wide just a minute later.

McKenna got on the end of a Fraser corner, but missed the target with a header. McLeish then removed McGregor and gave McTominay his chance. But his men continued to toil badly. It was truly diabolical stuff. Chants of “sack the board” and “f*** the SFA” started to ring out around the stadium.

Forrest came on for is former Celtic team mate Armstrong in the 71st minute and helped to create the second goal shortly after taking to the field. He broke down the right and squared across the San Marino goal. McNulty dummied and it the ball fell to Russell who stepped inside before drilling into the net.