Faroe Islands 1 Northern Ireland 1
Northern Ireland were left to reflect on some wasteful finishing as they came unstuck against the Faroe Islands in a Euro 2012 qualifier.
After the satisfaction of holding former world champions Italy to a draw on Friday they had to settle for a point against one of football’s lesser lights despite having the majority of possession.
It could have been even worse as well as Christian Holst gave the home team the lead.
Kyle Lafferty, who regained his place in the side at the expense of David Healy, salvaged some pride by scoring the equaliser.
Northern Ireland carved out the first chance of the match in the fourth minute following a swift break and it carried on that way for most of the game.
Lafferty got on the end of a cross from Gareth McAuley only to send a soft header into the arms of goalkeeper Jakup Mikkelsen.
They kept up the pace and Lafferty peeled away from his marker in the ninth minute but Mikkelsen was equal to his effort.
Lafferty was finding plenty of space and sent a shot into the goalkeeper’s body in the 16th minute with Warren Feeney playing a part in the move.
Then Lafferty came close to making the breakthrough three minutes later when his pace took him clear but Mikkelsen turned his powerful effort over the bar.
The Faroe Islands were being pegged back but managed to break away following a mistake by Stephen Craigan. However, goalkeeper Maik Taylor made a good block from Frodji Benjaminsen.
It was brief respite for the home side with Jonny Evans cracking in a shot from distance that was deflected by Lafferty and went wide after 31 minutes.
They maintained the momentum and Chris Baird released Lafferty down the left. He delivered the ball into the path of Niall McGinn but he miscued his effort.
The Faroes then gave away a free-kick with Jonas Tor Naes booked after tripping Feeney as he tried to break clear. Baird’s effort was taken cleanly by Mikkelsen.
Northern Ireland should have taken the lead in the 50th minute when Steve Davis threaded the ball through the middle.
McGinn was first to react but only succeeded in finding the side netting when it seemed he should have hit the target at least.
Healy was quickly into the action after replacing Feeney and Mikkelsen had to make a smart save from him in the 53rd minute.
Mikkelsen came to the Faroes’ rescue five minutes later when he clawed away a towering header from Lafferty following Chris Brunt’s cross from the left.
Northern Ireland were made to pay in the 61st minute when the Faroes took the lead.
Holst took advantage of some slack defensive work to steer a shot beyond Taylor and into the net.
Northern Ireland hit back in search of the equaliser and Baird headed wide three minutes later following Brunt’s corner. Then Craigan was off target with a header in front of the posts.
Northern Ireland’s pressure paid off in the 76th minute when Lafferty equalised.
He linked up well with Brunt before steering his effort home via the post for his eighth goal in 28 international appearances.
It was just the lift his side needed and Lafferty was sent clear by Brunt a minute later but failed to get a decent touch.
But despite all their pressure they had to settle for a point and that is not what manager Nigel Worthington wanted going into a three-month break.