Slovakia 2 Northern Ireland 1: Worthington undone by set-piece mistakes
Nigel Worthington is hoping for a touch of home comforts on Wednesday when Northern Ireland aim to get their World Cup qualifying campaign up and running. The province face the highly rated Czech Republic on the back of a 2-1 defeat by Slovakia in Bratislava.
Worthington, the Northern Ireland Coach, is looking for his side to eliminate the mistakes that cost them dear on Saturday. They were undone by two set pieces with Martin Skrtel and Marek Hamsik scoring in the 46th and 70th minutes. They pulled a goal back with nine minutes to go when Jan Durica steered the ball into his own net but that was as good as it got, despite a frantic finale.
"We always seem to make the job hard for ourselves," Worthington said. "Now we have got to do it again. The Czechs are a very good team and we have a job on our hands but the crowd will be on our side. We know we will have to put in a performance if we are to get a good result."
Keith Gillespie is winning his fight to face the Czechs after coming off in the second half. The Sheffield United winger, who has been troubled by an ankle injury, took a knock and looked in some discomfort. But his condition improved overnight with the squad flying back to Northern Ireland.
Gillespie won his 82nd cap in Bratislava and his experience could prove vital in midweek. He has developed a good partnership with David Healy, especially in home games.
Northern Ireland almost salvaged something from the match against Slovakia, only for the hosts' goalkeeper Stefan Senecky to make two superb saves in the dying moments. Substitute Warren Feeney's shot was clawed over the bar by Senecky, who then smothered George McCartney's effort.
Goals: Skrtel (46) 1-0; Hamsik (70) 2-0; Durica og (81) 2-1.
Slovakia: Senecky; Durica, Skrtel, Pekarik, Martin Petras, Karhan, Kozak, Jakubko, Hamsik, Sapara, Vittek. Substitutes used: Svento for Jakubko, 59; Zabavnik for Karhan, 74; Mintal for Vittek, 84..
Northern Ireland: Taylor (Birmingham City); Baird (Fulham, Shiels 78), Hughes (Fulham), Craigan (Motherwell), McCartney (Sunderland), Evans (Manchester United), Davis (Rangers), Gillespie (Sheffield United), Clingan (Norwich), Paterson (Burnley), Healy (Sunderland). Substitutes used: Feeney (Dundee Utd), for Gillespie, 53; Brunt (West Bromwich), for Paterson, 66; Shiels (Hibernian), for Baird, 78.
Referee: N Ivanov (Russia).
Booked: Slovakia Hamsik; Northern Ireland Gillespie, Evans.
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