Thursday, 1 September 2011

Four points or bust for Northern Ireland in next two games

Another Northern Ireland match is looming.  Last time the team took an early lead against the Faroe Islands, before falling into the old pattern of slow sideways passing.  Luckily the introduction of Niall McGinn, early in the second half, revitalised the line-up and Steven Davis notched up a second from long range, before Pat McCourt decided to take the Islanders apart twice with his mesmerising ball skills.

This time the opposition is a sight stiffer.  Mind you, over at The Social Club, Jonathan Wilson notes that the Serb manager, Vladimir Petrovic, has indicated that he would be happy to return from Belfast with a draw

It is therefore likely that the Serbs, with a number of players missing, will set up defensively against Northern Ireland.  Nigel Worthington is also an innately cautious manager and it looks probable that McCourt and Kyle Lafferty, both of whom are reportedly suffering from calf-strains, will be missing,   It's therefore shaping up to be a turgid encounter.  Think about the Italy game, where both sides were happy to sit in front of each other’s defences.

Theoretically a draw would keep Northern Ireland in the hunt, with all eyes then turning to Tallinn, where we play Estonia on Tuesday.  My feeling is that a win is needed, because it is by no means likely that we will take three points in an away game against reasonably credible opposition.  Estonia have already beaten Serbia during this campaign.

Without a shadow of doubt, two draws will leave too much to do.

It's not that supporters ought to expect Northern Ireland to qualify, but they do have a right to expect the team and the coach to give it their best go.  Unless there is a properly committed performance on Friday night and unless there is a clear will to win, as distinct from a will not to lose, then calls for another manager to be given a chance in the next campaign will grow louder. 


ItwasSammyMcNally said...

The Serbs (like the other former Yugo teams) tend to underestimate their own ability and try to avoid losing rather than trying to win which should suit Norn Iron.

Can't see the Serbian lineup anywhere - interesting to see which clubs they play for (information that often the BBC and most media dont bother to show us) and no odds yet (10.15am Friday) on Paddy Power for the game.

Meanwhile down South, a win is required to keep the show on the road where it is even-money odds for a win.

Chekov said...

Not sure whether it was Paddy Power, but I saw Serbia at 6/5 somewhere. Not a terrible investment if you have £50 going spare.

I'm not sure exactly what the Serbia line-up will be, but Stankovic is in the squad. So there's a task for the Northern Ireland midfield. Jovanovic and Pantelic may start up front, which is a classic small man, tall man combination.

What Northern Ireland would give to field a front two of that quality (the former's spell at Liverpool not withstanding).

Chekov said...

There's Paddy Power.

ItwasSammyMcNally said...

Those odds must have gone on in the last hour or so - Norn Iron at 13/5 looks pretty good, but I reckon a draw up North at 9/4 and a win down south at evens which is a 7/2 combo.

Hernandez said...