Randolph: 'World Cup race will go to the wire'
Ireland may have lost outright leadership of the table to Serbia, but the team are right where they want to be at this stage in the competition, according to Darren Randolph.
The West Ham keeper had one of the quieter nights of his 19-game international career against Wales on Friday, and with Keiren Westwood itching for a start, Randolph might have another quiet evening in tomorrow's friendly against Iceland.
There's now a three-month wait for the next qualifier, at home to Austria, but Randolph feels that Martin O'Neill's side are in a good place.
"We've had a great start and we've given ourselves a chance, we still have the other contenders for the group to come here. If we beat them, take points off them, it's even better for us," he says.
Friday's games in the group went according to predictions: Ireland and Wales drew. Again.
Over in Tbilisi, Serbia beat Georgia, while Austria won at home to Moldova, though both of those games had their hairy moments for the favourites, as Serbia had to come from behind to win, while it took Austria until the 75th minute to break down Moldova and score.
"We said from the start that it's going to be one of those groups where teams take points off each other, there is not going to be one out and out team that runs away with it like in other groups," added Randolph.
"I think it's going to go down to the last game probably with the other teams in the group, there is definitely more points that are going to be taken off the other teams."
Ireland did drop points at home against the Welsh with that 0-0 draw but the first-choice keeper feels it's a positive. "It's a point gained, we've been away to everybody in the group, well nearly everybody. We've still got Serbia and Austria to come here," he says, recalling that Serbia come to Dublin in September while the Austrians are away to Ireland in June.
"Then we have to go back to Wales in the last game and a trip to Georgia, I think it's a point gained.
"I didn't think there would be much in the game, considering it's two strong teams in the group and everyone knows each other, and in terms of what was at stake in the game so, I didn't think I'd be overly-worked but I knew I'd have one or two things to do during the night.
"Thankfully I kept a clean sheet and we got a point. We move on."
Randolph is one of the players who may be given a night off, or at least rested from the starting XI, tomorrow when Iceland take on the Irish side, as defenders John Egan and Andy Boyle may also come in for their debuts at some point.
In midfield, Conor Hourihane and Daryl Horgan hope for debuts while Eunan O'Kane, Stephen Gleeson and Jonny Hayes hope to add to their caps.