Northern Ireland key players not playing regular football 'hurting' team, says Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland were beaten 2-0 by Bosnia in Sarajevo
Last Updated: 16/10/18 12:10pm
Michael O'Neill believes a lack of regular first-team football for his key players is damaging Northern Ireland's hopes of progressing after a 2-0 defeat in Bosnia.
Edin Dzeko scored twice to leave Irish hopes of avoiding relegation to League C in the Nations League out of their hands in Sarajevo on Monday night.
Dzeko's opener came after Jamal Lewis slipped, allowing Edin Visca to set up the striker for a cool finish, and he doubled his tally when latching onto Miralem Pjanic's long ball to confidently fire past Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
O'Neill admitted afterwards that his side must be more ruthless in front of goal after another night of glaring misses, but claimed a lack of match sharpness for key personnel was holding his team back.
O'Neill said: "One of the things that's hurting us at the minute is a lot of our players aren't playing club football.
"Steven Davis and Jonny Evans are big players for us, and they haven't been playing much club football in the past month. We need to address that as well, but we're creating chances.
"We just have to persevere and allow the team time to develop."
Evans has started just two Premier League games so far this season for Leicester while Davis is yet to start in the league for Southampton.
George Saville struck the post from Lewis' cross with the scores level while substitute Gavin Whyte then hit the woodwork from close range as Northern Ireland's winless run away from home continued.
It is now six away matches in all competitions they've failed to score a goal in two draws and four defeats, and O'Neill says his side must learn quickly if they are to enjoy a successful European Qualifying campaign.
"It's a steep learning curve for us," he added.
"There were aspects of the game that were positive, but there were also other aspects that were negative. We played well for the first 25 minutes, but the goal really knocked us.
"The reality of the situation is that we have no points in this competition. But I think if we look at the games, we've introduced a lot of new players into the team. We had three Under-21s players finish the game tonight.
"We're going to have experiences like that. They're not just going to come in and be able to play international football."