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Nations Cup: Northern Ireland show no passion, no skill, no class ... no good

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Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Darren Kidd

9/2/11Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.comCarling Nations Cup Scotland v Northern Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington

9/2/11Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.comCarling Nations Cup Scotland v Northern Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington

Darren Kidd

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Darren Kidd

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Darren Kidd

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.  Left to right.  Chris McCreery, Jackie McNally and Mark Lynas from Portadown.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin. Left to right. Chris McCreery, Jackie McNally and Mark Lynas from Portadown.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Darren Kidd

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

PA Wire

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland supporters pictured in Dublin.

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

9/2/11Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.comCarling Nations Cup Scotland v Northern Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn with Scotland's Steven Naismith

9/2/11Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.comCarling Nations Cup Scotland v Northern Ireland, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.Northern Ireland's Niall McGinn with Scotland's Steven Naismith

Darren Kidd

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Scott Heavey

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Scott Heavey

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Northern Ireland 0 Scotland 3

Northern Ireland 0-3 Scotland: There was only one good thing about last night's desperate defeat for Northern Ireland in Dublin.

It wasn't in the European Championship qualifiers.

Agreed, Nigel Worthington's squad for the Carling Nations Cup clash with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium was severely weakened due to TEN withdrawals – nine injuries and one retirement — but that's no excuse for a dismal display from those who did turn up.

Scotland are no great shakes – their Euro 2012 table confirms that – yet they were made to look like world beaters for an hour as Worthington’s men wilted.

All over the pitch Northern Ireland were second best.

The goalkeeper made a howler, the defending was comical at times, the midfield lacked bite and there was no attacking threat.

Worst of all there was no passion from the men in green.

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It was a miracle that by the finish it was only 3-0 to Scotland, equalling the worst defeat suffered under Worthington when Northern Ireland lost by the same score to Italy in a friendly in Pisa.

Craig Levein's side could and should have won by more but, without an away win since 2008, they were content with what they had after Kenny Miller, James McArthur and Kris Commons were all on target.

Levein will feel his side can build on this victory.

Worthington will hope and pray that this is another of those shocking performances in a friendly that doesn't impact on his team's confidence for next month's vital European Championship double header against Serbia and Slovenia.

Friendlies have been a total nightmare during Worthington's reign. He's only won one since taking over as boss – against Georgia – and lost six of the last seven.

It's the competitive matches that count and he has a better record in those, but the Green and White Army deserve more than inept shows than this for their hard earned money.

Influential figures like Maik Taylor, Aaron Hughes, Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty will hopefully be fit for the Serbia trip.

It's evident that we need all our top players available because the squad strength isn't there.

Without so many key players, Worthington's choices were limited, so he loaded the defence with as much experience as he could muster with captain Stephen Craigan and Gareth McAuley the centre-back partnership and Chris Baird at left-back.

Young Rory McArdle, playing at right-back, must have had a strong sense of security looking across the line at that trio, but he ended up having a tortuous 45 minutes, with Commons running him ragged.

From about the 10-minute mark the back four found themselves up against it. They weren't helped by the midfield quartet ahead of them, totally outplayed by their Scottish counterparts, who had to replace Scott Brown with James McArthur after the Celtic skipper suffered an injury in the warm-up.

Scottish skipper Kenny Miller should have opened the scoring with 14 minutes gone, but blazed over. The number nine made no mistake five minutes later, however, after woeful Northern Ireland defending.

Blackpool's Charlie Adam swung in a corner which Worthington's team pitifully failed to clear and Miller bundled the ball home from a couple of yards.

It was a goal that gave Levein's side confidence and rocked Northern Ireland, who were fortunate not to go further behind when Steven Caldwell headed against the bar from another Adam delivery.

Northern Ireland were struggling to deal with Adam's corners – not the first side to endure that experience this season. Wasn't it Sir Alex Ferguson who said Adam's quality from set pieces was worth £10 million alone after Manchester United won at Bloomfield Road?

Scotland were completely dominating with wave after wave of attack. Northern Ireland were quite simply hanging on. McAuley's excellent block stopped Commons making it 2-0, but you felt a second goal was coming and on 32 minutes it duly arrived.

Like the first, it should have been avoided. McArthur's diagonal cross didn't look dangerous at all but instead of catching the ball, goalkeeper Jonathan Tuffey allowed it to sail over his head and into the net.

It was a first half to forget for Worthington's players. Not surprisingly changes were made at the break with David Healy, booked late on, coming on to win his 85th cap and Lee Hodson making his entrance, but it didn't alter the pattern with Scotland in control.

It was 3-0 on 51 minutes when the Scots cut through Worthington's team like a knife through butter, leaving Commons with the simple task of sliding the ball into the net.

At that stage you feared the worst with Levein's men rampant, but the game became fragmented with all the changes, two of which saw Liam Boyce and Adam Thompson make their debuts, and the score remained the same.

Next stop Serbia on March 25. We must be a lot better over there. We can't be any worse, that's for sure.

Scotland: McGregor, Hutton, Bardsley, Berra, S Caldwell, Adam, Morrison, Naismith, Miller, McArthur, Commons. Subs: D Wilson for Miller (90), Bannan for Adam (57), M Wilson for Naismith (57), Conway for Commons (72), Maguire for Morrison (79), Snodgrass for Bardsley (57).

Northern Ireland: Tuffey, McArdle, Baird, McAuley, Craigan, Evans, McCourt, Davis, Patterson, McCann, McGinn. Subs: Healy for McCann (45), Hodson for McArdle (45) Thompson for Craigan (67), Boyce for McGinn (72), Norwood for Davis (58).

Ref: Tomas Connolly (Republic of Ireland)


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