Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland will learn from early mistakes under Shiels, insists Nelson

Turning away: Northern Ireland’s Julie Nelson with Norway’s Guro Reiten during Friday night’s clash at Seaview
Turning away: Northern Ireland’s Julie Nelson with Norway’s Guro Reiten during Friday night’s clash at Seaview

By Stuart McKinley

Julie Nelson has admitted that mistakes were inevitable in the early stages of Kenny Shiels’ reign as Northern Ireland women’s manager as the new boss tries to put his stamp on the team.

Now, after suffering a 6-0 defeat at the hands of World Cup quarter-finalists Norway — who are ranked 12th in the world — last Friday night, the 100-times-capped defender wants to show how much they have learned from the errors which dogged the game at Seaview.

And she believes that style and substance will go hand-in-hand as the Women’s Euro 2021 qualifiers progress, starting against Wales in Newport tonight.

Shiels is determined to implement his footballing philosophy on the women’s international stage, with playing from the back one of the key elements to his passing and possession game.

Errors from Northern Ireland players with the ball at their feet were punished by the Norwegians twice in the opening 16 minutes, leaving the girls in green with a mountain to climb, but Nelson is in no doubt that tonight’s game will be different.

“It’s disappointing to lose 6-0, but we were happy with the performance,” said Nelson.

“It was a very difficult task going in against the top seeds when we’ve only had a short time under a new manager in Kenny Shiels and the way he wants us to play, but we were pleased with the work rate we put in.

“There were mistakes in the game, but we knew that was probably going to happen given the short period that we’d had together.

“Nobody is to blame. Everyone made mistakes and everyone will make mistakes, but it’s about learning together as a team and hopefully we will improve as the campaign goes on.

“We’re happy with the way Kenny is trying to get us to play football.

“It’s great to be on the ball more, and later on in the first half, when we pressed Norway high, they were stuck and ended up having to play it long, which was very pleasing from our point of view. We had a couple of chances and that was good.

“We have to be patient, and the pleasing thing is that we stuck to the game plan. We kept trying to play and didn’t resort to going long ball.”

In contrast to Northern Ireland, the Welsh started their qualifying campaign with a facile 6-0 victory over the Faroe Islands last Thursday.

And while attractive football may be what Shiels and the players desire, they are also prepared to fight for the points if that’s what it takes.

“Wales will be confident and I’ve read somewhere that they are ready for a battle — well, so are we,” said Nelson.

“We are hoping that they might underestimate us a little bit and we are going to learn from the Norway game and make progress and improve for the Wales game.”

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