Belfast Telegraph

Czech Republic 0-0 Northern Ireland: Green and White Army hail stand made by defensive heroes

By Ian Cahoon

Northern Ireland fans heaped praise on their defensive rocks after Michael O'Neill's men kicked off their World Cup bid with a point.

Around 40,000 fans in total made the trip to Euro 2016 and they are desperate to do it all over again in Russia for the 2018 World Cup.

Last night's 0-0 draw away to Czech Republic was a solid start in making the dream a reality.

A little over 1,100 fans made the trip to Prague, with many more glued to television screens back home.

And the fans were quick to pay tribute to the solid defensive showing from O'Neill's side.

"Evans and McAuley were superb for 90 minutes," said Belfast man Sammy Moore.

"How many headers did they win between them? Craig Cathcart is a big loss for us, but it allows us to play Evans and McAuley together and they're a brilliant partnership.

"It's a shame Jonny didn't get the move to Arsenal because he deserves to be playing Champions League football.

"It just shows you how big a relief it is that McAuley has played on too, he's irreplaceable for us."

Fans aren't quite so optimistic with things at the other end of the pitch however, after firing a blank in the opening Group C clash.

"I think we've now failed to score in four out of our last five matches and that shows where the problem is," Mark Carson said.

"The players worked really hard and you would have taken a point before hand but I thought the Czech Republic were there for the taking.

"Kyle Lafferty looks really short of fitness and to be honest Josh Magennis isn't going to get you many goals.

"I'd like to see us go with two up front against San Marino next month with Will Grigg or Liam Boyce getting a chance."

Carrick man Gary Burgess feels the point from the opening game bodes well for what is to come.

"I know they had quite a few chances in the second half but there's nothing really to fear from the Czech Republic," he said.

"They will probably be our big rivals for the play-off so if we can beat them at home it will mean we've taken four points off them.

"Our defensive record under Michael O'Neill is superb. We were hanging on a bit at the end, but you don't keep the amount of clean sheets that we do if you're not organised."

Adam Cathcart, from Coleraine, was impressed that the Green and White Army carried on from where they left off in Euro 2016.

"I was a bit worried that there might be a hangover from France, but O'Neill seems to have got the players focused again and we worked our socks off.

"The fans would love to go to the World Cup after tasting what the European Championships were like, so hopefully the players are the same.

"It's a solid start, so hopefully we can carry on in the rest of the games this year."

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