herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

O'Neill will ask his players for a big effort in Chisinau

Moldova v Rep of Ireland (Tomorrow, live RTÉ 2/Sky Sports 1, KO 7.45)

Seamus Coleman celebrates his goal against Georgia in Thursday night’s World Cup qualifying Group D victory at the Aviva Stadium
Seamus Coleman celebrates his goal against Georgia in Thursday night’s World Cup qualifying Group D victory at the Aviva Stadium

Martin O'Neill will not rely on the possibility that Moldova's confidence has been badly battered by two successive heavy defeats at home.

Serbia's 3-0 win on Thursday night in Chisinau came on the back of a 4-0 hammering by Wales in the first series of qualifiers last month.

But O'Neill used a poor performance against Georgia to focus minds on what will be needed to emerge from this part of the qualifying schedule with another three points.

"I think we need everyone to step up to the mark. The performance in the first half against Georgia shows we need everybody at it," said the Ireland boss.

"We can't afford to carry anybody. The game actually panned out much as I could see it, because if they could get in to any rhythm, which they did do, they started to grow in confidence.

"We didn't play well enough. We turned it around in the second half, started getting second balls and applying more pressure. That was really it," he added.

"We've relied on Seamus Coleman scoring a goal. It was a tough evening for us. But we've won, that becomes very important."

O'Neill, while accepting the need to improve dramatically over the first two outings in Group D, stressed that Ireland still have plenty of positive qualities which should be praised.

"Whatever the team lacks, we've shown over the last two years that we keep going. We drive on. The players don't give in in that sense and don't give up on what might be a difficult cause," he said.

"We knew the importance of winning the game and we won it. I'm delighted with that.

"We have to be driving at it. There's nothing wrong with that. Better teams than us have to be driving at it. We can't allow 15 or 20 minutes to disappear in a game and be second best because, you know, we didn't recover well enough.

"You can go a period where the other team have the ball, that's fine but we couldn't get close enough to them (Georgia) and that seven minutes became 10, 12, 14.

"Next thing you know I'm delighted to get in at half time because they couldn't get it in front. I felt we'd turn it around in the second half and we did do."

O'Neill was mystified about the wildfire rumour which swept around the Aviva that Harry Arter was about to jump ship and declare for England.

"I was speaking to him myself but he didn't mention anything about going elsewhere. I just asked how was he, obviously concerned. The hamstring was not pulled but it's very, very tight. He said he had been carrying it for a little while but, no, he didn't mention it," said O'Neill.

"There's always a place here for him. Harry has come here mostly when he's probably not been fit, played here against England and did very well in the game and wasn't feeling great in the course of the second half.

"He wasn't available for Scotland. That's what it's been like for him, kind of stop start. He pulled out of the game down in Cork in the game before we picked the side (for France).

"His thigh was sore then, so he always had a few niggles and never been pain free in that sense," claimed O'Neill.

"The rest? I don't know any more about that but the choice is entirely up to him," he said.

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