Chris Brunt admitted Northern Ireland got what they deserved last night — nothing from the scoreline and nothing to fill the heart with optimism.
It was a night to forget in Podgorica as Nigel Worthington’s side crashed to a 2-0 defeat against an ordinary Montenegro side, who are new boys on the international stage.
Kyle Lafferty cut a frustrated figure as a lone frontman and the effective service never came from Brunt or Martin Paterson on the flanks.
Northern Ireland struggled in the humid conditions and will need to move quickly through the gears if they hope to have any chance of qualifying for the Euro 2012 finals.
“It was a disappointing goal to concede, I think the ball bounced off Bairdy and landed at the centre-forward’s feet,” said Brunt.
“We were unlucky but it was a difficult time of the season when players haven’t played much football.
“It gives us a little taste about the conditions in Slovenia but it’s better getting the bad habits out of our system now so they aren’t repeated in Slovenia. We can play a lot better and we will.
“From an attacking perspective we can score goals and we have the strikers who can do that but we just need to be more clinical and maybe get a little luck.
“As the boys get fitter that will come.”
Stephen Craigan, who donned the captain’s armband for his 49th cap, says the result will be forgotten if Northern Ireland can sweep aside Slovenia in their Euro 2012 opener. But it should be a huge wake-up call.
“This game was always going to be like a pre-season international; it was never going to be the be-all and end-all,” said the Motherwell skipper.
“If we won 5-0 then great and if we lost 5-0 it was not the end of the world, but of course we didn’t want that.
“This was all about getting back and playing together because it has been nearly a year since we were all together. The heat is all part of the game and if we go to Slovenia and it is the same, we will have to adjust.
“People can say we haven’t had enough competitive games in pre-season but we have to be in better shape.
“You can’t play like the way we did at times out there and expect to get results.
“People had their say after the game about things that should be happening but there wasn’t enough of us working as a unit and helping each other.
“The young players have to get a proper chance but the manager knows he has to win games.
“They were an okay side but I think they were there for the beating and we would expect to come here and do better than a 2-0 defeat.
“We have to have a little soul-searching because if we want to qualify for a major tournament we will have to do a lot better.
“It’s not about me as the captain or what I do, it is always about the team and we have to improve as a unit.
“We can recover from this and be in better shape.
“You try and look at every department of the game and we know it’s not about tactics or formations, it’s about playing well and working hard for each other.
Estonia and the Faroe Islands kicked off Northern Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying group last night. Estonia were forced to come from behind to beat the Faroes 2-1 with both their goals coming in the 90th minute.