THE fourth night of Glasgow 2018 action at Tollcross International Swimming Centre began full of optimism for the Scottish crowd. Ross Murdoch, who Glasgow took to their hearts when he won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, was defending his European 200m breaststroke title while Mark Szaranek, who burst onto the public’s consciousness in April when he won silver and bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, was expected to be in the mix for a medal in the 200m individual medley.

Murdoch was first up, and the 24-year-old was under no illusions as to quite how tough an ask successfully defending his title was likely to be with Russia’s Anton Chupkov, as well as Murdoch’s GB compatriot, Commonwealth champion, James Wilby, who Murdoch was drawn in the lane next to, both in excellent form.

Murdoch was under the cosh from the off, reaching 50m in sixth position. However, the Scot’s trademark strength began to show as he clawed himself into fifth place going into the last 50m. A final push looked like it was going to be enough to grab a spot on the podium but it was not to be, with Chupkov taking gold in a European record of 2 minutes 06.80 seconds ahead of Wilby, with Italy’s Luca Pizzini pipping Murdoch by just one hundredth of a second to bronze in 2 minutes 8.54 seconds.

It was, for Murdoch, a severe disappointment to end up empty-handed and in the immediate aftermath of the race, he struggled to pinpoint what went wrong.

“I’m really disappointed with that,” he admitted.

“I’ve learned a lot from this meet - it’s been good so far and I expected better of myself tonight. I didn’t know if I could win it or not but I certainly felt I was better than 2:08.5. So it was pretty disappointing the way that went.

“It beats me what happened. I need to go back, have a look at the race, speak to [my coach] Steve, and hopefully learn something from it and move things on for next year. I wanted a season’s best tonight but hey ho, that’s the way it goes.”

Murdoch had talked earlier in the championships of focusing on swimming his own race and that was one thing he felt he executed well last night. Physically, he felt good and so his inability to push on in the latter stages of the race baffled him.

“The plan was to build the strokes, one stroke at a time through the rounds, and I felt I did do that,” he said.

“I was counting my strokes all the way. It was all going pretty swimmingly to be honest and I just don't know what happened on the back 50. I should have been going faster than I was.

“I felt good to go tonight. It was only the last ten metres it started to hurt, which is better than the last 35 on Gold Coast."

Murdoch has extreme pressure upon his shoulders every time he enters the water these days but he denied the expectation of the home crowd had any adverse effect on his performance.

“I didn’t feel pressure,” he said.

“It’s nice to have the crowd on your side so I viewed it as a positive to be back swimming at home.”

Szaranek has also been in excellent form this year. The Florida-based man was hopeful of adding to his international medal haul after his brace of Commonwealth medals. However, in the race immediately following Murdoch, he too was unable to get his hands on any silverware with the 22-year-old visibly gutted about finishing in fifth place in the 200m IM.

“I don’t know what happened - I’ll need to watch the race back and talk to the coach and see where I went wrong. But I’m pretty disappointed,” he said.

“I’ve got a couple of things in my head that I think went wrong but I need to clarify my thoughts. I’ll reflect on it and work out what happened.”

There was happier news for Duncan Scott, although his qualification for the final for the 200m freestyle was far closer than he intended it to be. Finishing fifth in his semi-final, he ended up squeezing into tomorrow’s final in eighth place and while there was a touch of nerves as he waited for the result to come through, the six-time Commonwealth medallist from Gold Coast is delighted at having the opportunity to improve on his semi-final swim.

“That wasn’t the plan,” he said of grabbing the last place in the final.

“I knew what the times were in the first semi, so I kind of knew I was in about eighth. But it was still a long couple of seconds.

“It’s going to be pretty tough tonight night and I guess I just have to try to swim my own race. It’s not ideal, finishing fifth in the semi. But still making it through to the final, you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance. I will have to look at the race and see what I can do better.”

GB’s best result of the night was the quartet of Adam Peaty, James Guy, Georgia Davies and Freya Anderson winning gold in the mixed relay medley.