Lafferty keeps alive chance of a trip to the finals

Poland 1 Northern Ireland 1
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The Independent Football

Northern Ireland clung on for a valuable point here in Chorzow which keeps their campaign for qualification from group three bubbling.

It was against the flow of play when Nigel Worthington's side, who struggle with a reputation for being poor travellers, took the lead through striker Kyle Lafferty seven minutes before the interval. They managed to keep the Poles at bay until 10 minutes from time, when their defence finally cracked under the mounting pressure and the midfielder Mariusz Lewandowski forced in the equaliser.

It was then all hands to the pumps but Northern Ireland clung on to the point, which would have been their target before the match kicked off.

But their will ave been a measure of disappointment as the Northern Ireland squad headed for home. True, they relied on some fine saves by Maik Taylor at times when their goal was under siege, but midway through the second half Martin Paterson wasted the opportunity to double their advantage.

The loss of match sharpness suffered by their prolific goalscorer David Healy has cost them dear, but on this occasion he turned provider. It was his throughball in the 38th minute which gave Lafferty the chance to race clear and slip a shot under Celtic's Artur Boruc and he repeated the trick to set up Paterson later. Paterson, however, rolled his shot wide.

Ludovic Obraniak had almost leveled for Poland before the break, but defender Jonathan Evans headed the midfielder's left-footed shot off the line.

Aside from Paterson's chance, the second half was Poland's attack against Northern Ireland's battling defence and Poland's coach Leo Beenhakker stepped up the pressure by sending on two strikers, Euzebiusz Smolarek and Robert Lewandowski.

The ploy paid off 10 minutes from time when Mariusz Lewandowski slid between Aaron Hughes and Evans in the goalmouth to knock home a cross from forward Pawel Brozek, although the ball may have gone in off Hughes.

Coach Worthington said: "It is a fantastic result tonight but we are all disappointed it is not three points. To come to a country like this, who have a very good team, we put our bodies on the line.

"Everyone to a man was fantastic."