Belfast Telegraph

Pictures: The GAWA still dare to dream despite Northern Ireland's flat finish

What the NI fans said after the 1-0 defeat in Norway

By Ian Cahoon

Disappointment at defeat in Oslo didn't linger too long for the Green And White Army on Sunday night.

Just like the management and players, fans all knew before a ball was kicked in Norway that a play-off place had already been confirmed, because of Scotland's draw in Slovenia earlier in the day.

It made the 1-0 loss much easier to take, as they wait to see which European capital they will be making plans for in November.

Mark Falconer admits it wasn't the end to Group C the 2,000 fans who had made the trip to Scandinavia had hoped for.

"It's a bit of a disappointing end to the group, but it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things," Mark said. "I think the players looked a bit tired after all the work they got through against Germany and that's understandable.

"It was pretty much our first choice XI out on the park as well, so it's not like the manager didn't take it seriously. We just need to put it behind us and make sure everyone is ready to go for these massive games next month."

Chris Brunt's 71st own goal proved to the difference between the two sides at the Ullevaal Stadium.

Glengormley fan Graham Bird believes the fact that Northern Ireland already knew they had a play-off place secured took the competitive edge off the game.

He said: "The goal was a bit of a strange one, Michael McGovern made a bit of a mess of the cross and then Chris Brunt could have done better with the own goal too.

"It's disappointing because there weren't really that many clear-cut chances against us. A draw would have been a fair enough result, because it was played like a game without much at stake.

"I think the fact the players knew they had made the playoff before the match changed things a bit, they maybe lost a bit of their edge."

The big worry before the game was that over half of the starting XI were a booking away from missing the first leg of next month's play-off.

Rodney Dallas was a relieved man. He said: "The big bonus is the fact we've come through it without any suspensions. Considering we went into the game with six players one yellow away from a ban it was no mean feat.

"I also thought George Saville did really well when he came on at half-time and probably should have scored at least one. He looks like a real find, and could give us genuine ­competition in the middle of the park."

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