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World Cup 2018

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Northern Ireland have been 'shafted', blasts Oliver Norwood

 

By Paul Ferguson

Northern Ireland midfielder Ollie Norwood feels "shafted" by the two referees in the World Cup play-off matches against Switzerland.

Michael O'Neill's men have failed to reach Russia after a courageous scoreless draw in Basel last night wasn't able to overturn the 1-0 first leg defeat to the Swiss last Thursday night at Windsor Park.

The tie has been decided by a penalty decision from Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan which was clearly wrong.

But Norwood feels an injustice over two tackles involving Swiss defender Fabian Schar and Northern Ireland winger Stuart Dallas.

Schar was only cautioned after five minutes of the first leg by Hategan for a recklness challenge which Norwood believes should have been a sending off offence. Then last night Schar, just seven minutes into the second half, lunged two-footed at Dallas but German referee Felix Brych failed to even give a free kick.

"Shafted is the only word to use," insisted 26 year-old Norwood.

"It's not just the penalty decision as the tackle Fabian Schar made on Stuart Dallas in Belfast was a red card.

"He then decides to go in for two footed tackle during this game and the referee didn't even blow for a foul which was astonishing.

"We can stand here and complain all night, but I hope we put in a performance that everyone in Northern Ireland is proud of.

"We left everything out there and it just wasn't to be. It's disappointing that these decisions cost us a place in the World Cup.

"We were angered, upset and disappointed with what happened in Belfast. Now, I feel a few things went against us and as players we have to be careful about what we say. I don't think decisions always go against the smaller nations.

"The referee has a hard job keeping up with the quickness of the game, but you can't deem those two tackles as not being red cards in the modern game. The player has lunged in from 10 yards in both games.

"I will think about the penalty decision for years to come as it's the only goal between the two sides and it's knocked us out."

Norwood, who played alongside George Saville, making his first start for Northern Ireland, and Steven Davis in midfield last night, says the Swiss were greatly frustrated by the men in white.

The performance was a huge improvement on their first leg display.

"I don't think their players enjoyed facing us and we got amongst them," conceded Norwood. "We spoke about making Northern Ireland proud and I think we did that."

With the end of this campaign, players will now consider their international futures with Gareth McAuley, Aaron Hughes and Chris Brunt set to be contemplating retirement.

Norwood hopes every player in this squad remains on the panel and that boss Michael O'Neill is still the Northern Ireland manager come next September when next competitive international takes place.

"We are devastated as a squad, but I hope we stick together," states Norwood, who won his 52nd cap last night.

"We will stick together as it's a great bunch of lads and it is a pleasure to play for Northern Ireland. Hopefully, all the players will remain available for one more campaign.

"Obviously, we all want Michael to stay. We hope that our performance in Basel would want him to remain in charge.

"The message is loud and clear from the players and fans that we would like Michael to stay as we can achieve great things with this squad. We have some good young players coming through and we have players with a lot of experience as well."

• Former Northern Ireland coach Billy McKinlay has linked up with new West Ham boss David Moyes while Stuart Pearce and Alan Irvine also join the set-up.

Belfast Telegraph

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