Date: 28th August 2008 at 11:16pm
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The first paragraph on the official site includes the quote: ‘We could have played better but what matters is that we’re through.’

I suppose really O’Neill could’ve added, fringe players impressed and nobody got injured to that quote.

But if you saw him on C5 (the TV channel who will now go down in history as not knowing their Stiliyan Petrov’s from their Craig Gardner’s – that’s me being polite, if their commentator thought Petrov was Osbourne or Salifou then he’s seriously over the limit) O’Neill was happy and content tonight.

Our instructions were, rightly or wrongly, don’t over stretch, don’t tire out and don’t do much that counts as stupid.

We got in return quite a boring game, with very little enthusiasm or commitment. Then again, we had won before we kicked off, and in those instances the so called ‘bigger clubs’ play a raft of juniors. We didn’t, we kept to fringe players and players who need match fitness.

The crowd obviously didn’t appreciate it with the pointless booing and to be honest that was childish in my opinion.

I know people paid good money, even though prices were reduced but you have to ask yourself, what was expected from the VP crowd tonight?

We got to see fringe players, and the likes of Gardner, Routledge and Delfouneso show they are worthy of more inclusion.

Tonight was about learning and fitness.

It’s a shame we didn’t kill it off completely and convincingly in the first 45 BUT at least we faired over two legs better than the likes of Liverpool or Man City.

That’s what needs to be remembered, not that, as thought, this leg would be a training match.

O’Neill agrees with me, and again this is a case of one instruction to the players and slightly opposite comments for PR purposes to the media.

‘Overall what matters is that we’ve got through. I was hoping that perhaps we’d play better, pick up the tempo and be a wee bit stronger. It was pretty comfortable but the second-half sort of faded into nothing.

‘I’m delighted to be in the hat for the first round. I know we were expected to win as the Premier League side but if you’d said to me before the Icelandic game that we’d go through, I would have been very pleased.

‘I was delighted with the goals that we scored over there and perhaps that maybe took a little bit of edge off tonight.

‘I thought Salifou was excellent tonight. He was very, very composed and he played some fantastic balls – especially out to Wayne on the right-hand side of the field.

‘Overall I thought he was excellent and if I’d been calling a man-of-the-match it would have been him.

‘Wayne Routledge had little spells. He had the beating of his man and perhaps he can do that type of thing a bit more often.

‘But overall I would have wanted us to play much, much better, considering the crowd that turned up in great numbers tonight for a tie that was effectively over.’

And that’s the crux isn’t it. We did tonight everything O’Neill wanted. Fringe players performed well, two were shining lights in Gardner and Routledge. Routledge more so for me, because Craig did fade in the second half.

O’Neill got from tonight what he wanted, and people’s opinions would be different if Friedel hadn’t have made his one season cockup. You can also count on two hands the chances that if they’d have gone in (baring in mind we put very little effort into the match) would’ve returned a cricket score not only tonight but also in aggregate.

The only truth in MON’s media comments….read ‘play much, much better’ and substitute it for ‘score 2-3 more goals’.

We were unlucky in front of the net, everything else went according to plan.

And for that reason tonight was a good night.

We progressed……that is what’s important.


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