Belfast Telegraph

Tommy Cassidy fears the worst for Northern Ireland

By Steven Beacom

The last man to score a winning goal for Northern Ireland at Hampden Park believes Michael O'Neill's team missed a chance in Scotland to build momentum ahead of Sunday's crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Finland.

It was back in 1974 that Tommy Cassidy struck to give Northern Ireland a 1-0 victory in Glasgow. The former Glentoran manager was hoping to see a compatriot follow suit 41 years on at Hampden on Wednesday to provide the perfect morale boost ahead of the massive match at the weekend.

Cassidy, who played in the 1982 World Cup finals, felt goalkeeper Michael McGovern shone in the 1-0 defeat but was not impressed by many others in the visiting team.

"I thought McGovern had a good game and when Steven Davis came on the pitch he looked a class above everyone else for Northern Ireland but, overall, and it pains me to say it, I felt it was a poor performance," said ex-Newcastle hero Cassidy, who won 24 caps.

"I have to be honest and say that I was expecting more just a few days before what is a huge match for us in the Euro qualifying group. I can't remember us having a shot on target in Glasgow which wasn't good.

"The Scottish game was a golden opportunity for the team to build momentum ahead of playing Finland and, in my view, we didn't do that.

"I know the manager ,Michael O'Neill, has talked about the importance of momentum for Northern Ireland and he is totally correct.

"I feel we are a country, and always have been, that need to get on a roll. That's when we have been successful."

The 64-year-old, who lives in the north east of England, added: "If we had played well against Scotland and got a result that would have really set us up for Finland. My fear is that it is hard to flick a switch and go from playing poorly in one game to producing a big performance in the next and that's what Northern Ireland must do now.

"The upside is that we will have more quality on the pitch on Sunday than we did on Wednesday night with the likes of Gareth McAuley, Steven Davis and Kyle Lafferty on fron the start.

"I just hope they can do the business. What Wednesday night showed was that Michael doesn't have a great deal in reserve if his big players are out.

"That's not the manager's fault. That's just the way it is in modern day football for the home nations. There's not the same number of players from Northern Ireland making the grade at a high level in England so he has less quality to choose from."

Belfast Telegraph