Northern Ireland boss O’Neill remains upbeat after draw

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill celebrates with goalscorer Kyle Lafferty after the striker's late equaliser in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Hungary. Picture: Press Eye.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill celebrates with goalscorer Kyle Lafferty after the striker's late equaliser in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Hungary. Picture: Press Eye.

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Michael O’Neill refused to be too despondent as Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualification was delayed at Windsor Park last night.

Kyle Lafferty’s 93rd-minute equaliser snatched a 1-1 draw against Hungary.

It came following a howler from Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern who spilled Balazs Dzsudzsak’s free-kick to offer Richard Guzmics a simple tap-in on 74 minutes.

Chris Baird was also sent off for two bookings in the 81st minute.

Lafferty’s late goal keeps Northern Ireland top of Group F, and four points clear of third-placed Hungary with two games remaining.

“I think it is unrealistic for us to be disappointed because we haven’t qualified after eight games,” O’Neill said.

“I don’t think Spain have qualified yet, so we aren’t doing too badly.

“We are still top of the group and in a great position. If you offered a four-point gap with two games to go, we would have taken it.

“We will be stronger again come October with Jamie Ward hopefully back. Jonny Evans will have more games under the belt.

“Kyle will also be back for the second game and he will be fitter. So there is a lot more to be positive about than negative.”

O’Neill admitted he was close to substituting Lafferty before Hungary struck in the 74th minute.

“At 0-0 we were contemplating bringing Kyle off. He couldn’t give us any more and the ball wasn’t sticking up top for us,” O’Neill added.

“We couldn’t get territory and possession, and we thought of bringing him off and replacing him with Josh Magennis.

“Then Hungary score and the nature of the goal is hard because it is a mistake. It is unfortunate for Michael (McGovern) because he had a great game otherwise.

“I thought the reaction to that was what I was looking for.

“And we managed to get something out of the game.”