Worthington braced for criticism after Estonia defeat

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington is prepared to take any flak that comes his way in the wake of last night's 4-1 humbling against Estonia.

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington is prepared to take any flak that comes his way in the wake of last night's 4-1 humbling against Estonia.

Worthington could do nothing as a series of individual blunders at the back gifted his side's Group C rivals a handsome victory that effectively ended Northern Ireland's hopes of a Euro 2012 play-off place.

Gareth McAuley could have done better for Estonia's first goal and was entirely culpable in allowing Sergei Zenjov to stab home their third, while Lee Camp produced a woeful gaffe of his own in allowing Tarmo Kink's hopeful shot to slip through.

Worthington, whose hopes of earning a new contract at the end of the campaign will have been hit by the result, nevertheless expects to shoulder the brunt of the fans' disappointment.

"That (criticism) is part and parcel of the job and you live with that," he said.

"I'll take whatever needs to be taken before the players because they don't deserve it.

"They were genuine, honest mistakes and credit to Estonia, they took full advantage.

"I couldn't believe it but you can't do anything about it. The players are out there doing their best and they don't do it intentionally."

Northern Ireland had conceded just four goals in seven qualifying matches before last night's meltdown at Le Coq Arena, and Worthington was at a loss to explain his side's sudden defensive frailty.

"It's hugely disappointing because I thought overall we performed pretty well, but we've made more mistakes in our own box in this match than we have over the whole course of the group," he said.

"It's one of those unfortunate things. Those who watch us regularly will know that (defence) is one of our strengths. Goals against has been a huge plus.

"But you concede four and that blows everything out of the water in one game."

"We've paid very dear. I don't think I have felt more disappointed over the four and a half years I've been in the job."

Estonia coach Tarmo Ruutli, who was applauded into the press conference by local journalists, has seen his side defeat Serbia and Slovenia on the road and was not shocked by a third win of the campaign.

"It wasn't much of a surprise. We have got some very good results away from home already and the crowd helps us a lot here," he said.

"But it wasn't easy at all, it was very tough for our defence.

"We are still alive (in the group) so our hopes are alive."

While qualification now looks a distant dream, Northern Ireland do have the chance to exact some revenge when Estonia visit Windsor Park next month before finishing the group with a daunting trip to Italy.

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox