Belfast Telegraph

Gillespie blames ref over booking

By Chris Holt

Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie has blamed Dutch referee Pieter Vink for prematurely ending his Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

The Sheffield United star picked up another booking early on in Saturday night's rain-drenched clash with Denmark.

Gillespie was harshly cautioned for a slightly late challenge on Chris Sorenson and he believes that in view of the conditions, the referee would have been best to allow the players to find their feet rather than brandish cards.

Now having previously been booked three times during this campaign, Gillespie picked up another suspension and will be forced to watch his mates take on Spain on Wednesday from afar.

"I was disappointed with the booking," he said.

"It was the first tackle of the match and I caught the lad.

"I thought the referee might have taken notice of the conditions and had a little word with me but he showed me a yellow card.

"After that, he didn't seem to want to book anybody."

Now that Gillespie's campaign is over he had the opportunity to briefly reflect on the strides that Northern Ireland have taken during these qualifiers.

And while there is still a chance that the Green and White Army will be heading for an Alpine wonderland next summer at the European Championships, held in Austria and Switzerland, the 32-year-old is looking even further than that.

The draw for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers is being made in Durban this week and after securing third place in the group on Saturday thanks to David Healy's winner in the 2-1 victory over Denmark, Northern Ireland won't find themselves drawn against as many of Europe's bigger nations.

"It was important for us to finish as high as we possibly could so that we can get a better seeding for the World Cup draw," he said.

"After Spain on Wednesday, that is what our next challenge is.

"We have done really well to achieve third place and we still have the chance to go through.

"Apart from that, though, we had to move up and the World Cup draw should be a bit kinder to us now."

Belfast Telegraph


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