I have to say I have mixed emotions after the latest round of international games. I feel more optimistic than I did in September but feel slightly concerned at the team's inability to see games out in the latter stages.
The major disappointment of missing out on Euro 2020 is something that will linger for a while yet and will rear its head once the competition gets under way next June. The realisation will then kick in of what we frustratingly missed out on.
Against Austria in Vienna and Romania in Belfast there were positives, notably the debut of Ali McCann backed up by his man of the match performance against the Romanians. He's a young man with plenty of bite and ability to back it up, so he's been a real find.
Daniel Ballard getting more international minutes will help his development too, and already he's looking more assured with every game. Michael Smith and Liam Boyce did themselves no harm at all with their performances, meaning the squad depth is possibly better than some people anticipated it was.
Ian Baraclough's insistence that he doesn't anticipate any retirements is also a big positive and we all hope that proves to be the case. Jonny Evans, Steven Davis and Craig Cathcart in particular are really influential around the group and role models for the younger players. Marry that with their experience and know how and they'll be vital if the distant World Cup dream is to become a reality.
The flip side from games two and three is that when in a position to win six points, the team ended up taking just a solitary point.
Worryingly, we now look like a Northern Ireland team that can't manage to win games even when the players put themselves into a strong position. I don't know if it's a mental thing with the players because it's been so long or if the manager making substitutions to the back line late on in the games upset the rhythm of the team.
Either way it must be eradicated with the World Cup qualifiers up next in March, and it's the team's Achilles heel at the minute.
Northern Ireland, under Michael O'Neill, were a team who found a way to win games, and that's been reversed of late. By their own admission they've given up soft goals, which previously wasn't the case and makes things more difficult than they should be.
With a triple-header to start the World Cup campaign, the manager and team need to learn from these experiences as they can't afford to get off to a bad start or our hopes of qualification could disintegrate very quickly.
It's been a tough start for Ian Baraclough, of that there's no doubt. The ultimate aim for the new manager was the Euros and that didn't materialise. Relegation from the Nations League clearly is a setback and no wins in 90 minutes to show in his eight games. Ian, like the rest of us, will be irked with results since he took over, but he needs to find the solution to winning games.
Managers know how football works… win games and everyone is happy, don't and questions come your way, that won't ever change. He's had his settling in period and, over the next four months, he has to sit with his staff and see what they can do differently to get the team back to picking up points.
The 3-5-2 system seems to suit the players at his disposal, so that looks like it's here to stay. It gets two strikers up the pitch to give the team a threat, with the wing back positions and central midfield requiring high-energy dynamic players which we have.
Northern Ireland fans have been treated to some big moments from the team in recent years and have given us memories that will last forever.
However, the recent downturn in results is a worry, we can't get away from that, and the team is at a crossroads. There's either going to be a renaissance in 2021 and everything falls into place or we are going to have to start all over again to bring success back to our wee country.
Ian has to get the formula right to take the team forward and he will know that.
International football is ruthless and unforgiving, with the last 10 days the case in point.