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N Ireland 19:45 Azerbaijan

Players rally round Worthington

Hughes and Davis feel players must take blame for poor displays

Last Updated: 07/09/11 5:15pm

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Senior members of the Northern Ireland squad believe it should be the players, not the manager, shouldering the blame for recent poor performances.

Back-to-back defeats in two crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers over the last week have rocked confidence in the camp and led to widespread criticism from afar.

A 1-0 setback against Serbia on home soil was followed by a morale-sapping 4-1 reversal in Estonia on Tuesday, with the country's hopes of reaching next summer's European Championships now all but over.

Individual errors cost Northern Ireland dear in both of their recent outings, with Steven Davis, Lee Camp and Gareth McAuley enduring games to forget.

It is, however, national coach Nigel Worthington who is feeling the heat, with pressure mounting on his shoulders.

With his contract set to expire at the end of the current campaign, it is looking increasingly unlikely that he will be offered an extension.

His players have been quick to rally round him, though, with captain Aaron Hughes of the opinion that the critics should be pointing the finger elsewhere.


He said: "It's a massive disappointment.

"At the start of the week we were looking forward to two massive games with a chance of qualifying. Unfortunately it hasn't panned out that way.

"Personally, I think the criticism (of Worthington) can be unfair - we don't set out to be negative.

"At times I actually thought we were the better team, but mistakes cost us and we all have to take responsibility for that."

Rangers midfielder Davis echoed the sentiments of his skipper, saying: "Nigel is just as deflated as the rest of us.

"It's disappointing for all of us. Over the last couple of games individual errors have cost us and realistically we had to come here (Estonia) and win. It's over.

"But of course we're professionals and we'll have to pick ourselves back up but it's demoralising and right now that's just the way we feel."

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