Thursday 27 July 2017

Steven Davis - Northern Ireland 'let off the hook' by Czech Republic

Steven Davis was surprised the Czech Republic did not convert their second-half opportunities
Steven Davis was surprised the Czech Republic did not convert their second-half opportunities
Steven Davis was surprised the Czech Republic did not convert their second-half opportunities

Steven Davis conceded Northern Ireland may have been "let off the hook" having earned a point in Prague at the start of the 2018 World Cup qualification process.

On the face of it, a 0-0 draw in the Czech Republic - who, like the Northern Irish, will have aspirations of securing a play-off berth behind favourites Germany -should be welcomed by Michael O'Neill's camp as a positive outcome.

Yet, as Davis himself admitted in his pre-match press conference, the upturn in results under O'Neill in recent years has altered expectations and having seen this transitional Czech team, it could also be viewed as a missed opportunity.

They almost did not return home with a point, though, as the hosts spurned the best opportunity when Filip Novak somehow smashed wide of Michael McGovern's goal from just seven yards out.

"They had a couple of chances in the second half which they would definitely have expected to score from - maybe we were let off the hook," Davis said.

"From our point of view we weren't at our best by any means but I think in the first half we had a couple of opportunities which we should have made more from on the counter attack.

"It's a hard one to reflect on because you are coming away from home and happy with a point; at the same time there's a lot of 'what if' if we had have been at our best. I think the three points would have been there for the taking.

"It was a strange game, they got opportunities where nine times out of 10 they would have been expected to score - luck was on our side in these cases.

"We definitely know we can do better but if you had told us before the match that we would get a point then we would have taken it."

The hallmark of the previous campaign was a resolute defence and in that respect there was little change in Prague, with Jonny Evans again outstanding at the heart of a back four featuring two League One full-backs.

So while little was created by the visitors at the other end, Davis noticed the strong work ethic did not drop even when things were not going Northern Ireland's way.

"It's important to pick up results even when we are not at our best but we produced a high work rate and desire on the pitch," the Southampton midfielder added.

"Maybe we got off the hook a bit when they had chances; we maybe should have defended a little better on those occasions.

"Overall it's a decent point for us and we now need to build on it."

Press Association

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