Cyprus 0 Northern Ireland 0: Michael O'Neill accepts rebuilding process has a long way to go as he continues search for first victory
O'Neill is yet to taste victory since taking the Northern Ireland job after his latest draw in Cyprus
Thursday 06 March 2014
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill accepted his rebuilding process has a long way to go after overseeing another agonising away day in Cyprus.
Northern Ireland struggles on the road comfortably predate O'Neill's arrival at the start of 2012, but a 0-0 draw in Nicosia means he has yet to taste victory away from home and appears no closer to breaking that sequence.
His side side have not even scored in an away friendly for 13 matches following Wednesday night's stalemate - a sorry streak that stretches back eight years.
An even worse result looked on the cards when Gareth McAuley was sent off in the 75th minute, but his team-mates at least ensured Northern Ireland did not slip to defeat against a side ranked 122nd in the world.
"We are miles away from being the finished article," he told Press Association Sport.
"We we are trying to build an international team here and it will take time.
"We weren't good in possession on the night and they were better on the ball. They put us under pressure because we continually gave the ball away cheaply and that was the most disappointing thing for us.
"In the second half we were better, we had one or two half chances, but the lads know we are capable of a lot more than that.
"We had a number of players who were not quite at the pace of the game so a draw, given the level of performance, probably isn't the worst result we could have got."
O'Neill did not feel aggrieved by McAuley's dismissal, even though his late lunge at Dimitris Christofis took place too far from goal to be considered a clear scoring opportunity.
McAuley was the latest player to be sent off under O'Neill's reign, following Chris Brunt, Kyle Lafferty and Jonny Evans, and his manager felt it was a 50-50 call.
"It looked like the guy was possibly through so Gareth was given a decision to make and stretched to get there," he said.
"I would want to see it again but I wouldn't say it was totally unjustified.
"In a friendly game could the referee have given a yellow? Possibly, because their player wasn't through the middle of the pitch, he was coming from the wide area.
"But we gave the ball away poorly and it was disappointing to see one of our defenders put in that position."
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