Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Downward Spiral

How bad was Northern Ireland’s performance last night? The worst for a long time. The worst from a list of poor performances under Worthington. So bad that even the manager, who has been in flagrant denial each time Northern Ireland has produced slipshod displays under his tutelage, was forced to acknowledge how poorly his team performed.

After a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Hungary, it is tempting to point to mitigating factors, and Worthington has done just that. Many of his first (and even second) choices were missing. Important players have not been playing regularly for their clubs, whether because of injury or managerial choice.

The truth is that each game Worthington stays in charge there is a little less coherence about the team, a little less of the belief which Sanchez engendered. The Northern Ireland team is in a downward spiral.

Whatever the deficiencies with personnel, in a game like last night's, the manager is responsible for the team’s spirit and system. Neither is there under Worthington. There was singular failure to close down Hungarian players quickly. Northern Ireland players consistently slouched some yards away whilst their counterparts popped the ball around (not always to great effect admittedly) unhindered.

The midfield, without Davis, was simply dreadful. Between it and the strikers there was an unbridgeable gulf. Any meaningful link-up play was absent and the top two looked isolated, particularly in the first half. Added to shapeless and undisciplined defence, was there anything positive to take from the team’s performance?

Lafferty played hard in the first half, before he was withdrawn in favour of Warren Feeney. The referee had a pivotal role in depriving Northern Ireland of our most effective player, refusing to allow Lafferty to compete with Hungary’s defence. Although, in any case, too often no team-mate offered the big Fermanagh man any support as he manfully held the ball up.

Derry City’s Niall McGinn came on in the second half and buzzed around busily. It was nice to see some enthusiasm imbued in a lacklustre contest, although his passing left something to be desired and with all due respect, he wasn’t beating the fullback.

And that’s it. Everything else was negative and everyone else was dire.


fair_deal said...

It reminded me of the bad old days when I got a block booking to NI games again about 7/8 years ago.

The defence has some excuse as it was so weakened but the mid-field were indeed truly awful.

Worthington doesn't cut it.

Chekov said...

It was a night straight out of the McMenemy era FD. Going nowhere.

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