Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Republic of Ireland can do even better, claims Martin O'Neill

Up close: Jon Walters (right) of the Republic of Ireland battles with Poland's Lukasz Teodorczyk in the 0-0 draw in Poznan
Up close: Jon Walters (right) of the Republic of Ireland battles with Poland's Lukasz Teodorczyk in the 0-0 draw in Poznan

Martin O'Neill paid tribute to his players – but admitted there was room for improvement after a scoreless draw in Poland.

Both teams struggled to create chances on a chilly night in Poznan, with the poor playing surface at the Municipal Stadium failing to help proceedings.

However, new boss O'Neill – who has Roy Keane as his right hand man – was satisfied that a team with seven changes from Friday's 3-0 win over Latvia in Dublin applied themselves well to the task, although he acknowledged there were areas that his Republic side could work on.

O'Neill and his squad will not reconvene until March, when they entertain Serbia at the Aviva Stadium.

O'Neill said: "I won't see them for some time. I'll have withdrawal symptoms – I'm not so sure it will be the same for the players.

"I might be on the phone to them, but I'm not sure they are looking forward to that."

As for last night's match, the former Northern Ireland skipper said: "We are away from home and it's a good result for us in that sense.

"Lots of things, we can improve on and the players think that themselves. Tonight was tough going, but we saw it through.

"The pitch was very sticky. There were some divots pretty early, maybe from last night's training.

"There weren't many chances in the game, but we showed terrific resilience towards the end.

"I thought we started very well and got it down and played it. We lost a little bit of shape in the last 10 minutes of the first half, and the changes we made disrupted the rhythm.

"But at the end of it all, there were loads of things to take out of it. Results and performance are very, very important.

"It's been really enjoyable for me," he added.

Stoke's Lurgan-born Marc Wilson once again demonstrated his versatility, starting the game in central defence, where he found himself in direct conflict with Poland's star striker Robert Lewandowski, and ending it in central midfield.

O'Neill said: "He has a little bit of presence about him and he can also play at left-back – I had a thought in my mind to push him over there to have a look.

"But I put him into midfield because he's confident on the ball – maybe too confident on the ball and takes a risk or two – but he's a very fine footballer."

Skipper Robbie Keane, who is to consult a specialist over a long-standing Achilles injury which could require surgery, watched from the bench alongside O'Neill and his assistant Roy Keane and was not even risked as a substitute.

"It was not the most fantastic spectacle but we can improve. I think we can deal with good possession a wee bit better," said O'Neill.

"But we showed terrific resilience towards the end."

O'Neill again praised the contribution of Aiden McGeady, feeling that he was the Republic's most dangerous player.

"He's got terrific feet and he's a genuine danger," commented O'Neill.

McGeady departed just after the hour along with James McCarthy as defender Alex Pearce and Derry-born James McClean joined the fray.

The Wigan winger needed just six minutes to make an impression with a teasing cross, but no-one could apply the finish as the game ended goalless.

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