Forget Tbilisi, bring on Serbia, urges Walters

As honest off the pitch as he is on it, Jon Walters isn’t looking to sugarcoat the bitter pill Ireland were forced to swallow in Tbilisi.

Forget Tbilisi, bring on Serbia, urges Walters

“Look, it’s tough, letting them have possession,” he says. “I’m playing right of midfield and ended up playing right-back most of the game. It was similar for James McClean. We didn’t lay a glove on them as such, but if we can keep possession a bit better we’ll be a lot better. But it’s easier saying it now than doing it on the pitch. For whatever reason we didn’t.”

Walters may have described the problem, without necessarily analysing its cause, but then, in the way of most footballers, he’s already thinking about the possibility of redemption in the next game.

“We know they dominated possession but we created four chances and should have scored four,” he says. “But however the result has gone, if we win our last three games we’re there so it’s a huge game now on Tuesday [against Serbia]. You can be as negative as you want — we didn’t get the result we want in Tbilisi but the cold fact is if we win on Tuesday we’re top of the group. So we’ve got to win. It’s a very difficult game but hopefully we can be sitting her on Tuesday night and Saturday is all forgotten about. So bring on Tuesday.”

Shane Duffy shares Walters’ disappointment with the performance in Georgia but, on a personal note, was understandably delighted to register his first goal for his country.

The pity, of course, is that barely had the Derryman’s header hit the net than Ireland began playing as though there were four minutes left, not four minutes gone.

“To get one early I thought we were going to go on and dominate the game,” Duffy admits. “Obviously we reacted a little bit differently. It’s a tough place to go. I think we allowed them to dominate too much. We dug in deep. I know we shouldn’t be saying that but that’s what we did in the end.

“We know we’re a lot better than that. We can perform a lot better than that. I wouldn’t say we’re angry, just a little bit disappointed that we can play better. At the end of the day, we didn’t lose the game. We were going for the win and could ended up losing it so we’ll take the positives.”

One of which, he points out, is that their World Cup destiny is still in their own hands.

“Get your points away from home, win your home games – that, I think, will get us there,” he predicts. “If we go and beat Serbia on Tuesday we’ll be top of the group. We’ve another tough game at home to Moldova and then Wales is the big one. But hopefully we can get there before that.”

That’s a note echoed by Stephen Ward. “We have a lot of work to do before Tuesday but it’s still in

our own hands,” says the full-back.

“We need to improve everywhere. The manager said after the game that we have been in this situation before, that we need to dust ourselves down and put in a much better performance against Serbia.”

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