Michael O’Neill was a relieved man after his Northern Ireland side ended their World Cup qualifying campaign with a creditable 1-1 draw in Israel.
Coming off the back of successive defeats in Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, the release of tension when Steven Davis found the back of the net in 72nd minute was palpable.
O’Neill’s men had slipped behind thanks to Eden Ben Basat’s sixth goal of the campaign and were on course for a fourth straight loss.
But they were worth their draw on the night and might even have won it when Martin Paterson got on the end of Chris Brunt’s chipped pass only to see Dudu Aouate make the save.
“It was a good result, let’s be honest,” said O’Neill.
“I said to the players before the game that whatever happened they could not let anyone question their character at the end and I think they did that.
“This a difficult place to come and that’s proved by the fact that only Russia have won here in the group.
“But I felt the players did extremely well in the second half.
“I think a draw was the least we deserved given the way we played.
“Israel came and stole a win in Belfast so it would have been nice to steal one back here.
“It was a positive at the end of a few negatives but we have to look back on the group as a whole and know we could have done better than we have.”
The former Shamrock Rovers boss will now have another decent result to his name when contract talks resume later this month, though he is happy for that process to take its own time.
“We’ll deal with all that when it comes along; the bottom line is this group of players are developing.
“Probably 60 per cent of the squad are in their first real campaign. We can only be better as a group for that.”