Northern Ireland boss O’Neill expects ‘very British game’ with Scotland

O'Neill wants his side to build on their 1-1 draw with Romania.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill expects ‘very British game’ with Scotland SNS Group

Michael O’Neill has told his Northern Ireland players to expect a different challenge when they head to Scotland on the back of an encouraging 1-1 friendly draw in Romania.

After calling this the start of a “rebirth” for his young side after a disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, O’Neill saw some hugely encouraging signs in Bucharest.

Debutant Jamie Reid, at 29 the oldest player in a Northern Ireland starting team with an average age of 23.5, scored just seven minutes in to his international career while emerging stars Conor Bradley, Trai Hume, Shea Charles, Brodie Spencer and Isaac Price caught the eye.

O’Neill picked a pair of friendlies away to Euro 2024-bound sides in order to test his inexperienced side, and is ready for another tough task at Hampden Park.

“Scotland will give us a different challenge,” he said. “It will probably be a very British game. They have a team littered with Premier League players so it will give our boys a chance to step up and show they can handle the game at that level.

“It’s a real challenge for our players but they’ll gain confidence from the game and look forward to Tuesday.”

Asked what he would hope to see at Hampden, O’Neill added: “More of the same. We’ll watch the game back and there’ll be certain aspects where we’ll maybe want to be a little bit better with the ball.

“At times our build-up was disjointed. Romania are a team that will put you under pressure. We knew they would do, we had to play not too many passes in our defensive third and play beyond it which we did quite well.”

With the focus now firmly on the future for this young side, O’Neill knows he much preach patience as there are bound to be growing pains.

Still, these are exciting times not only for the Northern Ireland fans, but the manager too.

“I was looking forward to the game,” he said. “I thought the preparation was good this week and I think these lads – I’ve never felt really disappointed by what they’ve given us in the time they’ve come back in, I just feel that they needed a little bit of time and they still do need time.

“We’ve lost a lot of senior players in the last 12 months and we fast-tracked a lot of the younger players into the team, but they deserve to play.”

Romania levelled midway through the first half when Dennis Man was able to ghost through the Northern Ireland defence and control a long ball before creating the angle to smash a shot which had too much power for Conor Hazard.

“We defended our box well, we denied the ball going into the box,” O’Neill said. “Most of the problems came from long, diagonal passes – that is where the goal came from – and those are just little things that we have worked on.

“The key is ask to be able to break as we did. We did it on two or three occasions in the first half, we did it on two or three occasions in the second half as well.

“With a little bit more making the right decision at the right time, a little bit more quality, we probably would have created another chance as well.”

O’Neill is hoping to get some reinforcements for Tuesday’s match. Sunderland defender Dan Ballard missed the trip to Bucharest after his partner gave birth but is due to join up in Scotland, while Jamal Lewis and George Saville could return from injuries.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code