PAUL Lambert insists Chris Martin will score goals for Scotland – but only if he is given a partner in attack.
The Derby County marksman, who is currently on loan at Fulham, has been criticised for his display in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Lithuania, whilst manager Gordon Strachan has been pilloried for preferring the 27-year-old to Leigh Griffiths and Steven Fletcher in his starting line-up.
Lambert was Martin’s manager at Norwich City and claims the one-time England under-19 cap ranks alongside some of the best finishers he has worked with.
However, the former Scotland skipper believes the striker, who scored and won a controversial penalty in last month’s 5-1 win over Malta, will never thrive if fielded on his own up front.
Lambert, who won 40 caps for his country, said: “There’s this big debate in Scotland at the minute as to whether Chris Martin should have started.
“I had Chris for a few years and he’s one of the most natural finishers I’ve ever worked with.
“The one thing Chris won’t do, and it’s not his strength, is running in behind teams. He doesn’t have the natural pace to do it.
“Get him to link up and sniff out a goal and he can certainly do it.
“Whether Gordon plays two up front, that is Gordon’s decision, but if you’re asking Chris to run in behind then, especially when a defence lies as deep as (Lithuania), there’s nowhere for him to go on that front.
“So, he might look to play somebody beside him or he might change it. That’s Gordon’s prerogative.
“But Chris Martin is definitely a top finisher.”
Lambert has confessed he expected Scotland to take their points haul to a maximum of six with a victory against Lithuania on Saturday night.
With Tuesday night’s clash with Slovakia followed by next month’s trip to face England at Wembley, he insists the draw is not necessarily fatal to the country’s dreams of reaching the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018.
However, he believes they will have to – and can – pick up valuable points on the road, just as he and his team-mates did with wins away from home in qualifying for France in 1998.
The former Celtic and St Mirren midfielder added on Sky Sports: “It’s not irretrievable. When we qualified for ’98 we went away to Belarus and got a result and went away to Latvia and got a result.
“We picked up points away from home, which is a major thing.
“If you can’t do it at home, you have to win away from home, you have to pick up three points somewhere away from home, and they’re going to have to do that.
“They’re capable of doing it. I don’t think anybody should think they’re not capable of taking points off the bigger teams.”