Gareth McAuley urges Northern Ireland to bounce back from ‘horror show’

Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley
Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley

Defender Gareth McAuley has called on Northern Ireland to bounce back from their “horror show” against Luxembourg by seeing off Azerbaijan.

A 3-2 defeat at the Stade Josy Barthel last month was the nadir of a World Cup qualifying campaign that has seen Northern Ireland stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Portugal and Russia only to falter against Group F’s so-called minnows.

Michael O’Neill’s side drew at home to both Azerbaijan and Luxembourg prior to their defeat by the latter, meaning Friday night’s clash in Baku is the final chance to take three points from a lower-ranked nation.

O’Neill was fuming after the last attempt went spectacularly wrong and West Brom defender McAuley, one of his most senior men, provided a typically honest assessment of where that left the team.

“We weren’t good enough individually or collectively in Luxembourg. It was obviously a bit of a horror show but we’ve got this game now to try and put things right,” he said.

“It wasn’t just one person, the whole team couldn’t pass it from A to B and that gave them confidence to come at us.

“We lost shape and discipline and we were expected to win it so you end up trying to do a little bit more, things you wouldn’t normally do.

“We ended up causing ourselves problems and shooting ourselves in the foot. It was an embarrassing defeat.”

Michael O’Neill has hinted he may make a number of changes for Friday’s qualifier in Baku.

Aberdeen striker Niall McGinn is hoping to recover from an injury for the game.