Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill laments lack of cutting edge
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill admitted his side were not good enough in the final third as they had to settle for a goalless draw against Malta in Wednesday night's friendly at the Ta'qali National Stadium.
The visitors had the ball in the net in the 18th minute, with Danny Lafferty's header disallowed for pushing, but aside from that they had very few clear-cut chances and did not force Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg to make a serious save.
O'Neill said: "It was a difficult game in that the conditions weren't particularly conducive to trying to play. The pitch was difficult, very bumpy, the wind obviously didn't help matters. But overall, whilst we never really seemed in any great danger and we controlled large portions of the game, we didn't create enough chances."
In contrast to Hogg, Northern Ireland keeper Alan Mannus, standing in for the ill Roy Carroll, made two terrific second-half saves from Malta captain and former Coventry striker Michael Mifsud.
O'Neill added: "They were very well organised and at times we played into their hands a little bit with our choice of passing. I think at times a little bit of our inexperience in certain areas of the team showed up tonight."
The draw took O'Neill's record to eight games without a win since taking over from Nigel Worthington late in 2011, while Northern Ireland have not won a game since beating the Faroe Islands in August of that year.
"You want to win games, simple as that," said O'Neill. "We've had eight games, we've had five draws and three defeats. We've had some very difficult games in there. Of course it's a concern but at the end of the day the only people who can change that are myself and the players and I'm aware of that."
Lafferty met Chris Brunt's corner with a firm header at the back post but Bulgarian referee Nikolay Yordanov appeared to penalise a Northern Ireland player in the centre of the box.
O'Neill said: "I've not seen it again. Obviously if you score at that time in the game it gives you a nice foothold. It was a difficult one. He blew very early, which would suggest that he obviously saw a foul.
"That was disappointing because I think a goal would have settled us down. A number of the younger players I think struggled tonight and hopefully the experience of tonight will help them going forward."
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