It’s not over, insists Northern Ireland captain Hughes
Aaron Hughes last night rallied his Northern Ireland team-mates for Tuesday night's do-or-die trip to Estonia by declaring that the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign isn't over.
Serbia's 1-0 victory at Windsor Park has sent Nigel Worthington's men down to fifth in their qualifying group, but only two points separate four teams as the campaign heads towards an enthralling climax.
And while disappointment was the overriding emotion after the defeat, Slovenia's home defeat against Estonia has given the Northern Ireland captain hope that all is not lost.
“Slovenia got beat tonight so we're still in it,” said Hughes.
“We need two good results against Estonia and it might mean that we have to go to Italy and get something, but it's not over.”
Nothing less than a win in Tallinn will suffice if the final two games next month are to have any meaning.
“Every game we turn up for is a 'must-win' game. You can say it's over and give up all hope. If you do that then it is over because you're not giving yourself a chance.,” said Hughes.
“We're still in it, still in there with a shout.
“It may not be in our hands as much as we'd like, but we're still there.
“We've got to get over this one.
There's nothing we can do about it now. We have to go to Estonia and try to get a win out there.
“We have a great chance of beating them out there and if we can stay in it right until the end – Italy away — there's no reason why we can't go there and cause an upset.
Marko Pantelic's winner came courtesy of a short back-pass from Steve Davis, which the Serbian striker cut out before side-stepping a challenge from goalkeeper Lee Camp on the edge of the box before rolling the ball into the net.
“It was my mistake which led to the goal, I just have to move on from it,” said Davis.
“I saw the other striker, but I didn't see the one who scored the goal. It's a disappointment, but that's football. You have to pick yourself up and the best way to respond is to go to Estonia and win the game.”
The Serbs winner was the first goal that Lee Camp had conceded at Windsor Park in his international career – and unfortunately it was a costly one.
Either side of that goal he had made two excellent saves, which at least kept Northern Ireland in the game until the final whistle.
“It's a disappointing night. The ball held up a bit from Steve Davis' back-pass, but he does a lot of good for our team so he's entitled to a mistake,” said Camp.
“With Estonia winning their game we have a chance.
“It's not over.”