Hughes issues rallying call
Aaron Hughes has issued a rallying call after Northern Ireland's disastrous defeat to Slovenia.
Last Updated: 13/10/08 1:12pm
Northern Ireland skipper Aaron Hughes has issued a rallying call after his side's disastrous defeat to Slovenia on Saturday.
The province went down to two late goals to leave their World Cup qualification in doubt, with just one point from their opening three games.
They now face San Marino in their next two Group 3 qualifiers, with Wednesday's game at Windsor Park being shown live on Sky Sports 3 at 7.45pm.
Hughes expects his side to get six points against the minnows which can act as a springboard to get back in the qualification race.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: "The defeat in Slovenia makes it more difficult to qualify for the finals, but I don't think it's all over.
"Yes, it's going to be tough and we can't afford any more slip-ups, but we can still get ourselves back in contention in the group.
"A few results have to go our way, but I think there'll be a few twists and turns in this group, so we can get back in the race.
"Six points against San Marino in our next two games will get us back in the mix."
The defeat in Slovenia was all the more disappointing as Nigel Worthington's side had played the better of the two teams before Millivoje Novakovic put the hosts in front on 84 minutes and Zlatan Ljubijankic added a second a minute later.
Prior to this, Kyle Lafferty and Jonny Evans had spurned decent second-half chances to put Northern Ireland in front.
Hughes added: "The lads are naturally disappointed after Saturday, but Wednesday's game is a chance to get it out of our systems.
"We'll draw a line under this result, get to Belfast and start afresh again. I don't think I'll have a great deal to do to get the lads up for Wednesday - they will do that themselves.
"We all know how important this game is so they'll generate their own desire and will to bounce back. They all want to put things right."
Hughes will have a new partner in the centre of defence on Wednesday as Evans is suspended after receiving a late yellow card against Slovenia.
The skipper added: "We'll miss Jonny - he'll always be missed - but that's the way it goes.
"We're also missing Stephen Craigan, but we have strength and depth in defence. At times we could put out two back-fours, so whoever plays will bring experience and quality to the team.
"We have options with Gareth McAuley and Chris Baird."