Northern Ireland produced a battling performance last night and held on for a draw in Chorzow. But Worthington’s men will regard ruefully two moments when Burnley striker, Martin Paterson might have helped clinch victory. I cannot criticise the team which secured an unexpected point, but when the final group standings are assessed in mid October, it might not prove enough.
It was frustrating to concede an equaliser just ten minutes before the final whistle, but in all honesty, with Poland camped in our half since the indomitable Lafferty’s 37th minute goal had put Northern Ireland into a shock lead, there was an air of inevitability to what happened.
Up until the Rangers’ forward netted, the men in green, in my opinion, had create the better chances. It was ironic that going ahead actually encouraged our players to temper a pressing game which had hitherto proved successful.
Davis, who was impressive, out of position, in the first half, was largely anonymous during the second. Craigan and McCann failed to gain possession and Northern Ireland missed Lafferty, withdrawn after he jarred his knee ligaments.
Whilst the Fermanagh man had proved an excellent outlet in the first period, Paterson and Healy failed to offer the same qualities in the second. Indeed it was only an heroic performance by the back four which prevented all 3 points going to Poland.
Yet it was Paterson’s run, located unerringly by a precise Davis pass, which created the one on one which should have given Northern Ireland a 2-0 lead. The striker was unfortunate to slip as he shaped to strike the ball. There would be no such excuse for his failure to distribute to Healy, soon after, when two forwards faced one defender.
Yes, we might have returned with three points, but one undoubtedly keeps Northern Ireland in the hunt for qualification. Wednesday night’s clash with group leaders, Slovakia, is now our biggest match since 1986. Forget the big name opposition which has previously succumbed at Windsor Park. This is the stiffest test yet.
The team needs to be at its best and the supporters need to raise the roof like never before. Let’s travel to Prague with something to play for!