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Saturday 18 November 2017

Darren ready to dazzle once more in big showdown

- Randolph: 'Last time I was in a penalty shoot-out was at the age of 13' - Irish clean sheets record harks back to tight days of Trapattoni era

Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph pulls off a save from Yussuf Poulsen at the end of Saturday's World Cup play-off first leg in Copenhagen
Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph pulls off a save from Yussuf Poulsen at the end of Saturday's World Cup play-off first leg in Copenhagen

For all the trauma that the Ireland side has endured in play-off battles over the years, from the misery of Paris in '65 to another Parisian blow in 2009, penalties have never come onto the menu.

But Darren Randolph, who will carry the nation's hopes should a penalty scenario arise late into the night tomorrow, says he will be ready if called upon.

The Middlesbrough keeper has to scratch his head and dip into the memory bank to think of the last time he was in a penalty shoot-out situation.

"Probably not since the Milk Cup when I was 13 or 14, it's been a while. We won... and I saved all of them," says the 30-year-old, adding that he will work on what comes with a shoot out.

"You look at everything. We'll be concentrating on the first 90 and obviously if it goes to penalties, so be it, we'll deal with that when it comes.

"You will do (prepare). It's only normal. You look at it before a normal game, so you're going to do the same if there's a chance of it going to penalties. You'll have players that aren't regular penalty takers.

"You'd be silly not to have a look or some sort of idea. That'll obviously be in our plans and preparation for Tuesday."

Simple

While some of Denmark's finishing was poor - Pione Sisto should have got his shot on target while Yussuf Poulsen's header late on in the game was so weak that Randolph was left with a relatively simple save to make - Randolph is the main reason why Ireland came away from Copenhagen with a clean sheet on Saturday night.

It's an impressive run that he is on, three successive clean sheets, something not achieved in three consecutive competitive games since the Trapattoni era, when the Republic side at one stage had eight clean sheets in a row, including four back to back qualifiers.

That defensive run made Europe sit up and take note. After a 3-2 loss at home to Uruguay, where some lad called Cavani was one of the scorers, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Macedonia, Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, Russia and Andorra all tried, but failed, to score against that Irish back line, marshalled by long spells by the Richard Dunne/Sean St Ledger axis, and it fell to another player who would, like Cavani, go on to bigger things, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, to finally put the ball in the Irish net.

That impressive record, leading into Euro 2012, was rent asunder with that flood of goals from Croatia, Spain and Italy at the finals, so it counted for little in the end, but Randolph is proud of his record, even though he admits it's hard to explain.

"In the last few games we've had, we've obviously needed to keep things tight, get wins, and maybe subconsciously it plays a part, I couldn't tell you, I don't know.

"As a team, we've been very solid," says Randolph, enjoying a good spell at all levels in his career as he has conceded just one goal in his last four outings, for club and country, while his clean sheets with Ireland came against Moldova, Wales and now Denmark.

"I expect to be busy every game. We didn't have the majority of the possession or anything on Saturday night, but then we still had chances, half chances ourselves as well to nick a goal.

"I think I got a bit of luck. I was just in the right place at the right time. Like I said, I got a bit of luck, and I am just happy to make the saves and contribute to the result we got here."

The focus changes for tomorrow night as Denmark will hold the initiative should they score that vital away goal, and Randolph expects to see a different shape to things.

"We'll be at home, it's win or bust tomorrow.

"We're the home team so we'll obviously have to get the result.

"I think we wanted to stay in the tie over there, we didn't want the tie to be over after the first game. We're still in it and we're at home next.

"You can't go away and try and win the game in the first 10 minutes, or the first half, I mean you have to keep yourself in the tie and give yourself a chance, which is what we've got.

"We go back to Dublin tomorrow and go again.

"We can't be too down. We're still in the tie. Win tomorrow and we go to Russia, it's as simple as that."

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