Doherty in wings to slot in for Reid

Bill George preview

Reid turned his ankle in training at Malahide on Monday and did not play a full part in yesterday’s final training session. He will be given a fitness test after 24 hours’ rest and treatment before the team is finalised.

Brian Kerr chose to play down the significance of Reid’s injury and was not prepared to indicate whether or not the young midfielder will play. But even if Reid is passed fit, Kerr must consider his alternatives.

The harsh truth is Ireland must find at least one goal and beat the Faroe Islands if they are to optimise the benefit from their draws away to Switzerland and France in previous qualifying ties.

At first glance the contest between the two should be comfortable for Ireland and should produce a comprehensive win. But football is as unpredictable as the Irish autumnal weather and Kerr is well aware of the dangers inherent in playing opponents of lesser reputation.

On Saturday, the Faroes did well in Cyprus and led 2-1 going into the closing stages. There were only nine minutes left when their defender, Pol Thorsteinsson, put through his own net to give Cyprus a point.

Tonight’s opponents had come from a goal down to lead after Claus Bech Jorgensen and Rogvi Jakobsen scored.

The belief is that the Faroes have advanced quickly since they lost their opening game in the tournament to Switzerland 6-0.

They held France to 2-0 four days after that trouncing. As well, video evidence appeared to suggest that the two goals France scored against them were offside.

Ireland have had unhappy experiences in the past against weaker teams, but not that many. The most infamous was their failure to score against Liechtenstein in June 1995, a result that helped keep Ireland out of the European Championships in England.

Faroe Islands, with a tiny population of 50,000, have enjoyed occasional success in football competition, the most notable was a 1-0 victory over Austria in the Euro 1992 qualifiers. They drew with Scotland and Slovenia in other tournaments but such days have been few.

They face a very difficult task against an Irish team still on a high after the scoreless game against France in the Stade de France. Manager Kerr again insisted yesterday that his squad was professional enough not to become over-confident because of their excellence in Paris, but that contention has to be endorsed by a similarly good performance.

In that regard some Irish reaction to the French match was over the top.

Ireland could, and possibly should, have won the match, but it should be remembered this was an experimental French team.

Their two centre-backs, Givet and Squillaci, were playing in their fourth internationals and midfielder Mavuba was playing in his first full match.

If Ireland are to qualify from this group for the finals in Germany they had to be able to go to France and match a French team that was a long way short of the team powered by Zidane, Thuram, Lizarazu and company.

The most encouraging element of the Irish performance was the quality of their passing game and the patience they showed in searching for an opening.

The nature of the club game in England is such that there is pressure on the player in possession to deliver the ball quickly to the front men.

That is not always the most effective means of attack, particularly at international level, where more subtlety is needed. With skilful players like Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and Andy Reid in the team, Ireland have shown the potential to process a more sophisticated and more effective attacking game under Brian Kerr.

Yet Kerr is pragmatic enough to realise that there will always come a time when patience will have to be thrown out the window and an injection of old-fashioned blood-and-thunder passion will be needed to produce the desired result.

His suggestion yesterday that he was considering including Doherty in the team at centre-forward confirmed that. Faroe Islands will be physically big, brave and combative. Ireland can best outplay them by processing a high-tempo passing game from the start to tire them physically and leave them vulnerable later.

The good thing is Ireland have the players and the approach to be able to hit on a winning combination.

Whether they do so early or late on is immaterial.

They look set to confirm their growing reputation by scoring a win here that will leave them beautifully poised for the resumption of competition next spring.

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