Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland 0-3 Croatia: Green and White Army shrug off poor end to a great 2016

By Ian Cahoon

A year to remember for the Northern Ireland faithful has ended with a night to forget. The Green and White Army will take some unforgettable memories from 2016, both those fortunate enough to have made it to France and fans who watched a first major tournament in 30 years together at home.

The final game of the year, a 3-0 friendly defeat at home to Croatia, was certainly not the way they wanted to sign it off though.

"I think it just shows that we have to be 100% on form to get results," said Belfast man Tommy Parker.

"We gave away bad goals and if we're not totally focused then we'll be on the wrong end of scores like that against good teams.

"It's maybe a wee bit of a wake-up call to keep our feet on the ground.

He added: "It's a shame to end the year on a defeat like that, but being realistic about it, no one is going to remember 2016 by this result."

Michael O'Neill gave a number of fringe players an opportunity on the night and fans were, in the main, understanding of this policy.

Mark Dwyer said: "You can't blame Michael for the changes he made, he needs to have a look at certain players and this was the time to do it.

"It lets us see how much we rely on the big players in the squad though, people like Steven Davis and Kyle Lafferty.

"We also have very little strength in depth. We had a left back playing at centre half for the entire second half simply because there were no other central defenders.

"Hopefully it's been useful in letting the manager see a few things, but a disappointing display to be truthful."

Mark Lewis, was also disappointed in the performance from the boys in green.

"It's as poor as I've seen us in a long time," he said.

"Thankfully it was only a friendly, and with the best will in the world there's never the same sort of hunger and attitude for a match when there aren't any points at stake.

"You have to be fair to them as well, they were pretty slick on the ball - and that was even without the likes of (Luka) Modric.

"At the end of the day they're a top-class side, but we could done more to match them at the same time."

In the first half there was as much interest at what was going on in the stand as there was what was happening on the pitch.

What appeared to be a number of Croatian fans were led out of 'the Kop' as firstly stewards and then police got intervened.

"It's not nice to see that sort of thing, especially in a friendly," Gary Scott said.

"From what I saw the stewards dealt with it well, and everything had calmed down by half-time.

"I'm not sure how they got tickets in the home end, but hopefully the IFA can look into it.

"I'd say once the competitive matches start again it will all be sorted out."

Belfast Telegraph


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