Kyle Lafferty needs to stop being stupid because Northern Ireland need him: Gerry Armstrong
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Northern Ireland get their Nations League challenge up and running by beating Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo tomorrow night.
Although we are currently rooted to the bottom of our table, Michael O’Neill will take a lot of positives from the defeat by Austria on Friday night.
To be honest, it was a game we should never have lost. Not for the first time, our finishing let us down.
In fact, it was a mirror image of the Bosnian game last month at Windsor Park, when we couldn’t score — all the best chances again fell to us.
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We had six shots at goal over the 90 minutes — only one of them was on target.
Austria never threatened our goal at all in the first half. Indeed, Shane Ferguson should really have given us the lead.
Then, we had a great chance in the first minute after the restart.
Paddy McNair produced a strike from the edge of the box that forced their goalkeeper into a good save.
Steve Davis will today still be wondering how he missed our best chance of the game. He went through completely unmarked, with only the goalkeeper to beat, and put it a yard wide. Had he scored, we would have got something from the game.
He hasn’t played a lot of football at club level and that miss was undoubtedly down to his lack of match fitness and lack of game time. We had a lot of players who were short of match practice.
Our captain fantastic has already scored 11 goals for Northern Ireland ... it really should have been 12.
It led me to think if it had been Kyle Lafferty going through on his own, he would have made it count.
He is our best striker when he is fit and available, but he obviously had his reasons for pulling out of such an important double-header — and at such a late stage.
I know Kyle — there is something not right there. But Michael could be running out of patience with him.
You can’t afford to persevere with people who continually let you down. Kyle needs to wise up and stop being stupid. He has to sort his head out.
I was also disappointed with the goal we conceded. I’ve looked at it on many occasions and I don’t know whether Marko Arnautovic is offside or not — it’s really very right. Jamal (Lewis) was our deepest player and he may have been playing him on. The big striker managed to get in behind Paddy McNair. To be fair, it was a great finish.
Once big plus for me was the introduction of Will Grigg. He was so unlucky not to score with his header late on. I still can’t believe it didn’t go in.
It looked a goal all the way. And, I think Kyle Vassell and Stuart Dallas thought it was a goal, as they didn’t even react when the ball hit the inside of the post.
Grigg looked lively and bright when he came on and only for his hamstring injury, which has ruled him out, I think he would have been in Michael’s thoughts for a starting place tomorrow.
We now must channel all the positives into this next game. Bosnia are going to look at Northern Ireland as no-hopers, having played two and lost two in this group.
They are in complete control of the group. Michael approached the double-header wanting to take four points, but that hope has now gone.
But I genuinely think they can get something from this match ... they always produce something when the chips are down.
Belfast Telegraph Digital