Belfast Telegraph

Players have to keep believing our luck will turn, says Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has told his players to keep believing in themselves, despite another disappointing defeat .

O'Neill's men went down 1-0 to Turkey in a friendly in Adana last night

The goal in first-half injury time was preventable, with Mevlut Erdinc taking advantage of a misunderstanding between goalkeeper Roy Carroll and defender Chris Baird to reach a long ball from Bilal Kisa first and put it in the net.

Following on from a desperately disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign, that mistake and the result was not what O'Neill was looking for as he begins the build up to the Euro 2016 qualifying matches next year.

His first victory as boss came in his 10th match in charge and 15 games in he is still looking for number two.

But he says there were enough positive elements to come out of last night's friendly to take forward to the next game in March.

The players have suffered eight defeats in those 15 matches, but O'Neill insists that will turn in time if they keep the faith.

He said: "This team has suffered quite a few injustices in terms of not getting what they deserve from games and this was probably another example of that.

"We have come out on the wrong end of a sequence of bad decisions, bad goals and deflections. We've had a lot of things to deal with and we've not had anything that I can think has really gone for us in any game.

"We just have to persevere and the players have to believe.

"They kept playing in the second half and there were some excellent performances – Oliver Norwood and Chris Baird were both outstanding.

"We played three at the back and that suits us for a number of reasons. Our centre backs are players who play at the highest level and it makes sense to get them all in the team in their natural position.

"This match was exactly what we were after. I'm delighted with the nature of the game, it had an edge to it and the crowd were noisy.

"We got so much out of it. You can't tell me the likes of Lee Hodson, Ollie Norwood, Daniel Lafferty and Billy McKay are not going to be better for the experience of playing in that situation and that's the purpose of the game.

"Everyone will go on about the lack of wins or what the results are, but these games are about the preparation of the team and the players who played will be better for it."

On the shambles that was Turkey's winning goal just before Carroll was replaced by Alan Mannus at the break, O'Neill said: "I was disappointed with the nature of the goal and the time it occurred. Basically Roy called for the ball and Chris has left it for him. The centre forward just continued his run and got a toe to it.

"Roy held his hands up. He knows himself he made the wrong decision and he's disappointed in that. It's basically the last kick of the half, but how we played after that is testament to the spirit of the team. Roy knew he was coming off at half time, but I don't think he was thinking about having a shower at that moment!"

Meanwhile Northern Ireland under-17s play Luxembourg at Solitude tonight (7pm) in the European Championships.

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