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'Salmon-esque' Thomas helping Scots leap closer to Euro finals

"She's an absolute salmon".

Martha Thomas certainly leapt like one for two of her four goals in Scotland's 5-0 victory over Israel on Tuesday.

Lisa Evans, who likened her team-mate's springing ability to that of a silver fish, provided two of the Tottenham Hotspur striker's well-taken goals as she recorded a first international hat-trick out in Hungary.

That's eight in four Scotland games this year for the 28-year-old, who also converted from the spot for Friday's fourth and final goal against the same opponents at Hampden.

But, before her double in February against Philippines, finding the back of the net while leading the line for her country appeared a hardship.

Her close-range finish in the Pinatar Cup was her first goal in dark blue since a friendly against Northern Ireland in July - and just her second since September 2022, the last time she scored in a competitive fixture for Scotland.

Now, though, she's taken to celebrating for her country like a duck to water. The four-goal haul is the first time a player has done that for Scotland since Kim Little against Cyrpus in 2019.

"It's really pleasing, I always want to score goals and help the team win," Thomas told BBC Scotland at the Budaorsi Stadion.

"It's been a really positive year for me with my club and Scotland. Hopefully, it's the start of a really positive 2024."

It was a bit of a head-scratcher that, at the turn of the year, Thomas' Scotland record read as 11 goals in 32 appearances.

The former Manchester United forward is a hard-to-handle, old-school number nine. As Evans alluded to, her height is an advantage, while her instinct to drop deep and link-up has never been in question.

At long last, though, Scotland seem to have found a rhythm. Rinse and repeat, so to speak. Work the ball out wide, swing in a cross and Martha will do the rest.

Pedro Martinez Losa's tactics board will no doubt be a bit more accurate than that, but the general gist is there. And it's something the players are certainly keen to act on.

"We need to keep delivering balls into her to make sure she scores," Evans said. "You saw Martha, she's an absolute salmon.

"She makes any cross look good. My balls were decent, but her headers were class.

"We need more of that from her because she is one of the strong points of our game and, the more we get in, the more hopefully she can finish like she did today."

'Our front three are class'

Out of the five goals, four came from crosses. Only the opener was not worked well in from out wide.

It's part of the identity of Martinez Losa's side, with Kirsty Hanson and Claire Emslie supported by the high-playing full-backs - Nicola Docherty and Evans.

It's something the latter, who has been deployed in nearly every position for her country bar goalkeeper, relishes.

"I enjoy being able to push forward as a full-back," Evans, who is without a club after leaving Bristol City, added.

"Pedro has really brought that in this season - making sure that we do attack.

"Our front three are class. They've got a lot of pace and if we can get one-vs-one's and get balls into the box then we'll cause problems."

Hanson and Emslie couldn't replicate their exploits from Friday night, but they should have.

In truth, Scotland could have and should have hit double figures out in Budaors.

Thomas' tally could have been greater, while the aforementioned wingers were both denied by the post and Israel goalkeeper Fortuna Rubin.

Chelsea Cornet eventually grabbed her first international goal but perhaps should have done so earlier, while the re-invigorated Sam Kerr flittered with netting, too.

Chances missed but momentum gained. While the calibre of opposition in Group B2, which Scotland top with two games left, must be taken into account, Martinez Losa's side have re-established their ruthless streak and rekindled their relationship with goals.

Thomas has insinuated her intention to send Scotland into next summer's Euro's in Switzerland and, while the end goal is still at arm's length, she's finding her feet at the right time to lead her country's charge to the finals.

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