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Thanks a lot for your generosity Edin, you...eh... had a Macedonia

REMEMBER the name: Edin Nuredinoski. He sounds vaguely like a famous Russian ballet dancer yet possesses the balletic movement of a clapped-out Lada.

And, who knows, Edin and his adhesively-challenged gloves may eventually go down in Irish soccer history as the man who -- unwittingly, haplessly? -- secured Euro qualification for the Boys in Green.

Move over Gary Mackay, your place in the pantheon of interest-free Irish handouts has been usurped by a man who (unlike the much-loved Scottish journeyman) didn't put the ball where he intended. Aka, he spilled it at Robbie Keane's grateful feet, not the back of a Bulgarian net almost 24 years ago.

Thankfully, and perhaps even typically, the generosity of a hitherto unknown Macedonian netminder is the principal reason Ireland now find themselves sharing top spot with Russia and Slovakia this evening.

No, that Group B table is not some make-believe dream. This, despite Saturday's fright night second half at the Aviva, which threatened to transport us back to a nightmarish world of past disasters in Skopje in the last years of the last millennium.

This time, at least, there is no need for Ireland's worst player to don an orange jersey in training ahead of tomorrow night's friendly against Uruguay.

Why? Because the worst player on the pitch was already sporting an orange jersey. The Macedonian 'keeper had a Macedonia, and for that we should be thankful.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, it was a bad choice for Edin to choose such a colour scheme given its historic connotations with this fixture.

He certainly wasn't displaying 20-20 vision when Aiden McGeady pulled the trigger after 84 seconds -- here was a shot that most international-class custodians would have ushered around the post with minimal fuss. If that was unfortunate for Edin, his gift-wrapped rebound for Robbie was downright careless.



liberated

Goals aside, there was at least much to admire in that opening quarter. McGeady seemed liberated by the dramatic improvement in his international goal ratio (zero to hero at the 38th attempt) as he jinked and weaved up the left touchline, double-teamed by nervy Macedonians at every turn.

Darren O'Dea's exquisite early tackle on Goran Pandev allayed doubts about his inexperience allied to a recent bench-warming role at Portman Road.

And yet, even during Ireland's early pomp, it was somewhat disconcerting to see another Darron -- Gibson -- cough away cheap possession more than once.

For reasons not readily apparent, he had been talked up beforehand as the ready-made answer to our engine-room problems. Yet if you take away the howitzer shot, what else is there in the Derryman's arsenal?

This was his big chance but, by the time of his eventual substitution, Gibson's status had been reinforced: that of a Man United reserve, not a Man United player.

He wasn't the only one to wobble. If Richard Dunne was most culpable for Ivan Trickovski's goal, then the team itself was guilty of collective narcolepsy before the break.

That set the scene for another typically fraught second half: either constricted by nerves or a tactical strait-jacket of their manager's design, they succeeded in making Macedonia belatedly appear a better team than they are.

Even some minor sideline tinkering might have helped: for example, why not a switch of wings for McGeady and Damien Duff, whose tendency to cut inside bore diminishing returns as the game wore on?

Ultimately we can thank two 'keepers -- Kieren Westwood for denying the clean-through Trickosvski, and not forgetting the bould Edin -- for saving our blushes.

Enough of the carping. We're joint top and everything's rosy in Trap's garden ... roll on Skopje in June!