NORTHERN IRELAND goal hero Dean Shiels has said knowing his memory of scoring for his country will be marred by dropping two points is agonising.
The 27-year old admits the misery of conceding an equaliser to Luxembourg in the latter stages has already put a dampener on his new international achievement.
“I know I should be proud but the disappointment totally overrides it,” he said solemnly.
“We see this as an opportunity lost. The disappointment is awful.
“Scoring the goal will always be a special moment for me and it’s one I will never forget. It’s a great honour to score for your country.
“But dropping two points has taken the shine off of it.”
Shiels collaborated splendidly with Manchester United defender Jonny Evans for his 14th-minute opener, sending a delirious home crowd into euphoria and leaving his teammates brimming with confidence.
Unfortunately for Northern Ireland, however, this quickly degenerated to complacency.
“When you are only 1-0 up, it is easy to lose concentration. At this level you will get punished no matter who you’re playing against if you’re not taking your chances.
“Our ball retention was poor in the second half and we were punished for that.”
West Brom ace Chris Brunt was just as critical of the team’s overall performance.
Blaming a failure to maximise possession and at fault for taking a back seat, Brunt said focus and discipline are paramount for the next qualifiers.
“We are disappointed we didn’t see the game out and that’s down to complacency. We knew we were worse in the second half and Michael (O’Neill) didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, after the game.
“We were vulnerable for the goal too, which took a massive deflection there. We also had so many offsides and a disallowed goal. Our touch wasn’t good enough and at one point I thought I was about to score, but my touch wasn’t good enough.
“it will be an uphill battle now, we didn’t do ourselves any harm against Russia which was going to be different so now we have a mountain to climb in the next few qualifiers. We were dangerous from set play and had chances, it is easy to say it was one of those nights but we didn’t take our chances.”
While Brunt can highlight grave areas for improvement in midfield and behind, he maintains the firepower provided by strikers such as Kyle Lafferty will only be as good as the service available.
“You think about David (Healy) with all his goals in those campaigns and it is clear we need a goalscorer. Kyle obviously chips in with goals but it is hard to ask him to do that every time for Northern Ireland.”
Luxembourg’s Maurice Deville meanwhile paid tribute to his team-mates.
The SV Elversberg striker said the visitors proved their worth when it mattered, adding he believed a draw was a fair result.
“Ultimately it was a justified point,” the 20-year-old said.
“It was good to come here and get a result because we knew it would not be easy. For the first half Northern Ireland were definitely the strongest team and they have very good, capable players who can apply pressure.”