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Michael O'Neill rues missed Northern Ireland chances in Republic of Ireland stalemate

 

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Near miss: Gavin Whyte denied by Republic keeper Darren Randolph

Near miss: Gavin Whyte denied by Republic keeper Darren Randolph

Near miss: Gavin Whyte denied by Republic keeper Darren Randolph

Upbeat Michael O'Neill was left to rue another night of missed opportunities as Northern Ireland's failure in front of goal cost them a morale boosting and deserved victory over the Republic of Ireland in their international derby at the Aviva Stadium.

Northern Ireland were a much superior force but for the seventh away match in a row they were unable to score a decisive goal and the Republic were able to salvage a 0-0 scoreline and keep their pride intact.

Gavin Whyte and Jordan Jones missed clear cut scoring chances and boss O'Neill said: "I thought we should have won the game. We did have to do some defending, but it was mainly set-pieces and free-kicks we gave away around the box."

Former Crusaders star Gavin Whyte was given his first Northern Ireland start and produced an exciting opening 45 minutes but, for the second match in a row, he was left disappointed at not scoring his second international goal from a glorious position when he had only the keeper to beat, while in the second half Jordan Jones was also denied by goalkeeper Darren Randolph with the goal gaping.

O’Neill said: “I thought we should have won the game. We did have to do some defending, but it was mainly set-pieces and free-kicks we gave away around the box. In terms of possession of the ball and chances created we should have won the game.

“We have to commend Darren Randolph, he had a great night and made important saves at key moments in the game. Overall, I’m pleased with the performance but again the pattern is similar to games we’ve played in the Nations League, we were dominant, very dominant, but we didn’t take the chances and we created a lot.”

Sadly prior to kick off, both anthems were heavily booed, controversial Republic winger James McClean was jeered by the Northern Ireland fans and at the final whistle the home support booed their own players and management team.

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O’Neill added: “At the end of the day, I don’t get involved. People come to a football ground and if they decide they want to boo an anthem that’s their decision.

“I don’t particularly agree with it. I would never condone anyone booing anyone’s anthem but at the end of the day it’s not something I’m in control of so at the end of the day I’m not going to dwell on that. I’ll concentrate on football.

“I thought it was little disappointing after the start to the game because both teams played with great spirit, great respect and it was very competitive.

“When tackles were flying in you see players picking each other up. There was great respect between the players and that’s the most important thing. We wish the Republic well for their final game in Denmark on Monday.”

Northern Ireland play Austria in their final Nations League match on Sunday, but they go into the match knowing they have been relegated from their group after last night’s draw in Vienna.

O’Neill added: “I think the team is getting stronger, there’s a youthfulness about it and maybe more pace than there has been. In terms of the game on Sunday we’ll see where we go but what I do have is 28 players.

“We’ve let Tom Flanagan go back to Sunderland to play on Saturday but there’ a bunch of lads desperate to play.

“We’ll probably make a few changes for Sunday. I know everyone will be itching to play.”


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