Hughes clutching at positives

Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes
Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes

IF eternal optimism equated to international prowess, Northern Ireland would have qualified for every competition going, WRITES LAURE JAMES.

Even the experienced Aaron Hughes was filtering the positives from Wednesday night’s draw with Azerbaijan, along with his team-mates and manager Michael O’Neill.

The deflating thing is, they do so against a backdrop of total frustration.

Creating lots of chances and firing the ball everywhere besides the target, however, counts for little when your qualification hopes are as good as buried.

The disappointment which the players, including Fulham defender Hughes, expressed after the game, is enough to reinforce that - despite the spin.

“We don’t need anyone to tell us what we needed out there,” he said.

“We didn’t end up chasing the game through a lack of trying or a lack of commitment. It just wouldn’t go in for us and we get nights like that in football, so we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it.

“It is disappointing not to get the three points, but there were positives to take from the game. We created lots of opportunities but they just didn’t fall for us.

“Michael is positive about it too; we played good football caused them lots of problems. The way their goal came about, that happens too. The guy takes it at his feet and hits it, gets one,” he added.

“He could have the ball another ten times and not do it.

“There were a few times in the game where players make little mistakes here and there but we got the goal and at least we came away with a point, even though we would have liked all three.”

Both Kyle Lafferty and Chris Baird will miss the next competitive game through suspension.

It is understood Association chiefs are trying to secure a friendly, perhaps for February, but for now, Northern Ireland will have to sit out a four-month wait until they regroup.