LAWRIE McMENEMY is billing Northern Ireland's next Euro 2000 qualifier against Finland at Windsor Park as a "six-pointer" after this thrashing by Turkey at Galatasaray's Ali Sami Yen Stadium on Saturday.
The Northern Ireland manager realises that his side must beat the Finns in their second match next month or, just like in their qualifying campaign for France 98, their assault could be over before it has even begun. When McMenemy was asked if second place in the group was still attainable he replied: "The next game - Finland - will tell us. They have had a good win against Moldova and so that one is set up nicely.
"You talk about six-pointers and that certainly applies to that game. I said at the start that I would like to go into Christmas with half a dozen points at least from our first three games and now we've just got half a dozen to play for."
Oktay Derelioglu, the Besiktas striker, scored either side of a Tayfur Havutcu penalty as Turkey ran the Irish ragged.
Iain Dowie, who won his 50th cap in the match, was highly critical of his side's performance, particularly in the second half. "I felt this was the worst we have played away from home for some time and our fans deserve better," he said.
"This performance was disheartening, but remember we beat Switzerland at home, who had beaten England, so we do have good performances in our locker.
"It's now time we started producing them when it matters and that is going to be next month. We must get the three points against Finland."
The defeat highlighted the paucity of quality in the Northern Ireland side who boasted just three Premiership regulars and one of those, Keith Gillespie, was making his comeback after five months out with an ankle injury.
McMenemy can use that as an excuse, but he cannot hide behind it for too long as his sacked predecessor Bryan Hamilton can testify.
Goals: Oktay (18) 1-0; Tayfur (49 pen) 2-0, Oktay (58) 3-0.
TURKEY: Rustu Recber (Fenerbahce); Mert Korkmaz (Kocaelispor), Saffet Akbas (Fenerbahce), Tayfur Havutcu (Besiktas), Alpay Ozalan (Besiktas), Abdullah Ercan (Trabzonspor), Okan Buruk (Galatasaray), Tugay Kerimoglu (Galatasaray), Hakan Sukur (Galatasaray), Sergen Yalcin (Istanbulspor), Oktay Derelioglu (Besiktas). Subsitutes: Oguz Cetin (Istanbulspor) for Tugay, 75; Hami Mandirali (Schalke 04) for Okray, 78; Arif Erdem (Galatasaray) for Okan, 87.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Fettis (Blackburn), Horlock (Manchester City), Hill (Northampton), Morrow (Queen's Park Rangers), A Hughes (Newcastle), Rowland (QPR), Lennon (Leicester), Mulryne (Manchester Utd), Gillespie (Newcastle), M Hughes (Wimbledon), Dowie (QPR). Subsitutes: Quinn (West Bromwich) for Rowland, h-t; Jim Whitley (Manchester City) for Gillespie, 73.
Booking: Northern Ireland: Lennon.
Referee: R Wojcik (Poland).Reuse content