Belfast Telegraph

Worthington defiant despite fans' criticism

By Steven Beacom

Nigel Worthington today insisted that Northern Ireland remain very much in the hunt for a place in the Euro 2012 finals, despite only managing a 0-0 draw at home to Slovenia.

Some fans, however, see things a little differently and were critical of the manager’s tactics after last night’s drab affair at Windsor Park.

Prior to kick-off, it seemed as though it was win or bust for Worthington's team to keep their hopes alive — but with Estonia drawing 1-1 against Serbia, no-one made any headway in the race to finish second behind Italy in Group C and earn a play-off.

At the halfway stage, Worthington's men remain in fifth place, two points adrift of Slovenia and Serbia. Vitally, though, our boys have a game in hand and three of their last five games are at home.

Northern Ireland, missing several regulars, only threatened late on against a Slovenian side who, while dominating possession for long periods lacked a cutting edge.

The best moments for the home side came with Chris Brunt missing a Corry Evans cross by inches when a goal beckoned, and Gareth McAuley, captain on the night, having a header cleared off the line.

It was a frustrating evening from an attacking point of view, but Worthington was content with the outcome and his team's hard working display, adding that it’s all to play for in terms of qualification.

“It was a fantastic point and an immense performance from all the lads. I was pleased that we kept our discipline and shape,” said the manager.

“We have that game in hand and that will be massive.

“We're still in the race and we'll fight all the way to the end.”

Frustrated supporters coming out of Windsor were not so impressed.

Andy Scullion, from Larne, said: “Nigel Worthington’s tactical ineptitude has cost one of the most talented squads in 20 years any chance of qualifying.”

Another fan, Dennis Smith, added: “There was a total lack of ambition against opposition, who were there for the taking.”

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph