Belfast Telegraph

Fans point to missing men as difference in first loss of campaign

By Ian Cahoon

Northern Ireland fans were still in upbeat mood last night despite seeing their side fall to the first defeat of the 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign.

Michael O'Neill's men now sit second in Group F following the 2-0 defeat to Romania in Bucharest.

After starting the series with successive wins over Hungary, the Faroe Islands and Greece it looked as if the Green and White Army would have something to celebrate for the fourth game in a row, before the Romanians scored twice in five minutes, but fans were in a philosophical mood afterwards.

"Kyle Lafferty has been the man of the campaign so far, but he just didn't get the service last night," said Michael Jamison.

"He definitely put himself about and worked his socks off, but as a striker when you don't get the ball then what can you do?

"I was quite disappointed with Niall McGinn, it was his chance to show Michael O'Neill that he should be a regular in the team, but he didn't get into the game.

"Our passing was poor throughout the game and when we did have the ball we just didn't do anything with it."

The loss of captain Steven Davis dominated the build-up to the game and Richard Gray felt his absence was pivotal.

He said: "We knew he was going to be a big loss, but I think we really missed Davis in the middle of the park.

"He's our captain, but more importantly everything goes through him in the middle.

"We just don't have anyone else in the same bracket and sadly it showed last night.

"All of our midfield players are too similar and no-one was able to pick a pass and that meant we couldn't really play on the break as we have done in the previous away games.

"In our other away games in this group we have looked dangerous on the counter attack, but we offered very little against Romania."

Adam Glasgow felt the manager could have done more to take the game to the Romanians.

"I know that Michael O'Neill's hands were tied a bit with the players who were missing, but I thought he could have been a bit more adventurous," he said.

"Davis and Ward are two huge players for us to lose in the midfield, but I just thought it looked from early on like we went there for a point.

"They were under pressure and aren't great at home so why not have a bit more confidence in ourselves?

"It's not the end of our hopes by any means, but hopefully we'll believe in ourselves a bit more in the rest of the group."

Andrew Scullion, from Larne, also felt the injured players wee sorely missed..

He said: "I think missing Davis and Ward made the difference between the Romania game and the previous two away games.

"We didn't really keep the ball as well or carry the same threat going forward.

"We don't have the depth to miss two or three important players.

"At the same time, you can't be too critical because we are still in a good position and the other results went our way, with the Faroes beating Greece and Finland losing to Hungary.

"A draw would have been a great result, but how we do in our home games will decide whether we qualify or not."

While it was a defeat for Michael O'Neill's men Gary Blair believe there is still little to fear.

"To be honest, we've now seen all of the rivals for those top spots and you wouldn't be worried by any of them," he said.

"Romania got the goals they needed, but I wouldn't fear them coming to Windsor, they are there to be got at.

"We also need to remember that we now have three of the away games out of the way and we're still second."

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