Belfast Telegraph

Czech Republic 0-0 Northern Ireland: Fortunate draw gives us platform to build from, insists Steven Davis

Big Match Reaction

By Paul Ferguson

Honest skipper Steven Davis admitted Northern Ireland were 'let off the hook' as they claimed what could prove to be a valuable opening 2018 World Cup qualifying point in Prague.

Northern Ireland struggled throughout last night's encounter as a new-look Czech Republic side dominated possession and created the more clear-cut goalscoring chances.

Only for some shocking finishing in front of goal, Northern Ireland would have been leaving the Czech capital empty handed.

Home right back Pavel Kaderabek directed his shot from six yards out over the bar in the first five minutes but the big misses came in the second half when Filip Novak blazed wide with the goal gaping and then, with two minutes to go, Vaclav Kadlec shot past the post when clear in the area.

Northern Ireland had a couple of opportunities, mostly on the counter attack, but only a Paddy McNair shot in the first half really troubled the Czech goalkeeper.

Davis said: "They had a couple of chances in the second half which they would definitely have expected to score from - maybe we were let off the hook and luck was our side in these cases.

"From our point of view, we weren't at our best by any means but I think in the first half we had a couple of opportunities which we should have made more from on the counter attack.

"It's a hard one to reflect on because you are coming away from home and happy with a point - at the same time a lot of 'what ifs' - especially if we had have been at our best."

Following their exploits at the Euro 2016 finals and the big win over Ukraine, the Northern Ireland players were frustrated they couldn't put on a better show for their travelling 1088 fans - especially after a week's training camp in Austria.

But it's a sign of how far Northern Ireland have come in the last two years that there is even disappointment at only coming away with a point.

Southampton midfielder Davis explained: "It's important to pick up results even when we are not at our best but we produced a high work rate and desire on the pitch. Maybe we could have caught them a couple of times in the first half, as they pushed up high. In the second half it was difficult - we dropped off and they had a lot of possession of the ball and put it in our box a great deal.

"The Czech Republic are still a good side, even though they've had a few retirements, to get a point against. We definitely know we can play better but if you had told us before the match that we would get a point then we would have taken it.

"We now look forward to a home game next month against San Marino.

"And we know if we are going to do anything in this group then we need to take maximum points from the games against San Marino - both home and away. But it will not be easy.

"This has given us a platform and we know we can build on this and hopefully we'll get back to doing what we do best in October."

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