SCOTLAND under-21 coach Scot Gemmill says that his youngsters must stand up to the physical nature of international football, after coming through a bruising encounter with Latvia at McDiarmid Park last Friday night.

There were some hefty challenges put in on Scotland players during the draw in Perth, the worst of which coming from Ingars Stuglis, whose wild lunge on Motherwell’s Chris Cadden earned him a straight red card.

Cadden showed remarkable restraint in his reaction to tackle that could easily have seriously injured him, and Gemmill admits he has told his young Scots that they will have to keep their heads when opposition teams are putting the boot in.

“Of course [Chris was lucky],” said Gemmill. “There were a few tackles in the game to be honest. There was one off the ball on Oliver (McBurnie) and the one on Scott Wright.

“I think our players have to be ready not to react to that. It happened in Latvia away from home and we managed to score from when Lewis Morgan was tackled heavily in the corner.

“The players have to learn not to react to it because the referees won’t tolerate a reaction.”

Gemmill is sure that the young Scots will be in for more of the same roughhouse treatment when they come up against Ukraine at McDiarmid Park tonight, as they look to leapfrog The Netherlands back into second place in their European Championship qualification group with a win.

“They are a very physical team, a very quick team, and I’m sure it will be that kind of game,” he said. “They’ll come in with a real point to prove. If they saw our first half performance from Friday night – I’m sure they will have – then they’ll be coming to try to force us in to those areas.

“We didn’t keep the ball well enough and we really need to play well tomorrow. There is no doubt that Ukraine will put us under that pressure. Every time the players play it is a hurdle for them to get over and show they can play at this level.”

One thing that Gemmill insists doesn’t concern him is his side’s inability to convert their domination of Friday night’s fixture against the Latvians into goals, with numerous presentable chances squandered before Ryan Hardie’s late penalty salvaged a point.

He thinks his players can learn from the experience, but wants them to take just as much out of the way the visitors defended their own goal as they do from their profligacy in attack.

“Games like that can happen so give credit to Latvia. They defended their goal like their life depended on it which is something we are trying to put in our team as well.”

Gemmill meanwhile isn’t surprised by the way that young Rangers defender Ross McCrorie has handled his rapid ascent into the limelight at Ibrox.

McCrorie made his debut for the club back in September, since become a mainstay at club level, and he is tipped to be handed a dark blue jersey by the under-21s boss for tonight’s crucial qualifier.

“I’m lucky that I’ve worked with Ross from the younger age groups,” said Gemmill. “The question has always been, will he get an opportunity? He’s playing for such a big club and he’s managed to do that, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.”