Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland fans still behind O'Neill but results must improve

Ian Cahoon

Embarrassed. That sums up the feeling of the Northern Ireland fans in the wake of last night's defeat in Luxembourg.

More than 1,200 fans travelled to the principality in central Europe and most made the journey expecting a rare victory on the road.

And despite seeing their heroes take an early lead it was all downhill after Martin Paterson's first half goal.

It has left the fans scratching their heads as to just where this side is headed for under manager Michael O'Neill.

Walter Scott, from Whitehead, summed it up well when he said: "Oh no not again.

"Goalscoring is no longer Northern Ireland's problem, it's keeping the ball out of their own net that is the issue.

"It's fair enough to lose four goals to Portugal with their superstar Ronaldo but losing to the only Grand Duchy in the world with a population less than one third that of Northern Ireland, as the Yanks would say, sucks."

Andy Scullion didn't mince his words, calling it "pathetic".

He said: "A shameful and pathetic performance – it is results and performances like that which make it very difficult to argue with Northern Ireland's lowly world ranking.

"To pick up one point and concede four goals over two games against Luxembourg is unforgivable.

"Luxembourg are a team of part timers, and you would expect a top Irish League side to give them a game.

"The players really have to have a good look at themselves. Michael O'Neill has had a difficult job and not much luck, but the bottom line is that most of the results and performances have not been acceptable and minimal progress has been made."

Belfast fan Colin Magill feels embarrassment is the overriding emotion, pointing out Northern Ireland are the first team in over 40 years to lose a World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg. "I am literally embarrassed to be a Northern Ireland fan after that," he said.

"We are the laughing stock of the home nations and most of European football.

"I really like Michael O'Neill and how he's handled things, but when you look at the results they haven't been good enough.

"Would I have him back after this campaign? Probably, but he has to find a way to win football matches.

"After that it's hard to find anything positive at all to take from this group."

Ian Bailie believes the inquest should begin with the side's most experienced campaigners.

"I think the thing which hurts the most is that no-one saw that result coming," he said.

"In years gone past you would have feared a result like that, but it genuinely seemed like we were making progress.

"Our big players wanted to play, we seemed to have a tight-knit squad, a settled side.

"Then we go and do something like that and now it feels like we're back to square one," he added.

"I was most disappointed in our big players like Steve Davis, who should have been bossing a game like that but didn't do it."

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