Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Mood of Northern Ireland fans matched by dark night

A Northern Ireland fan shows his frustration during Wednesday night's World Cup 2014 Qualifier at Windsor Park
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - NOVEMBER 14: Daniel Lafferty of Northern Ireland chips the ball past Elhad Naziri of Azerbaijan during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Group F Qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan at Windsor Park on November 14, 2012 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Pat McCourt (right) beats Azerbaijan's Badavi Guseynov during the FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualifying, Group F match at Windsor Park, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 14, 2012. See PA story SOCCER N Ireland. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Not even a late equaliser from hero David Healy could lift the spirits of the disappointed Northern Ireland fans pouring out of Windsor Park last night.

Few predicted the stumbling draw against lowly Azerbaijan, especially after last month’s draw in Porto gave the fans such a reason for optimism.

Indeed fans arriving at Windsor last night were in buoyant mood expecting to see their heroes finally kick-start their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Fast forward two hours and the dreary, wet weather matched the mood of fans making their way out of the final international of 2012.

Michael Gaston from Belfast: “You have to be massively disappointed by that and scoring a late equaliser against a team like that is only papering over the cracks.

“You couldn’t afford to miss the amount of chances we have in a pub league and get a result never mind in international football.

“I bet they couldn’t believe their luck when they saw us miss chance after chance.

“I don’t know what the answer is for Michael O’Neill to fix things, apart from go on and score himself!”

Ballymena-based fan Gareth Scott thinks fans need to lay off the manager: “Michael O’Neill picked the team most fans would have and by all accounts is very professional.

“The one thing he can’t do is go out on the pitch and play himself, you have to look at the players who aren’t doing the business at the minute.

“I actually thought we played alright tonight and on another night we would have scored four or five goals with the amount chance we created.

“Obviously players don’t miss chances on purpose but as an international footballer you have to be able to score from a few yards out.

“I know the responsibility will lie with the manager but it’s time for the players to stand up and be counted for the rest of the campaign.”

Michael Haveron, from Antrim, added: “Can you remember Northern Ireland either having or missing as many chances as we did?

“For us to drop two points against a team like that so soon after Luxembourg was really disappointing.

“The IFA don’t need to look too far to find the reasons why capacity crowds are hard to come by when we get matches like that.”

Steven McAuley felt that boss O’Neill should have made changes earlier than he did: “I think Paddy McCourt should have been on earlier than he was.

“When he did came on he was one player who looked like doing something and being able to create.

“Maybe he’s not a player that managers like to start with, but what do we have to risk but giving him a run out?

“David Healy was probably worth a shout and definitely should have got more than the five or 10 minutes he did get.

“Hopefully they’ve both given the boss something to think about from here on in.”

Disappointed Castlereagh man Paul Penny added: “Any talk about World Cup qualification is a bit of a joke on the back of this group.

“It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it is and we need to just realise it.”

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