AARON Hughes and his international team mates face a make or break couple of days as the Euro 2012 qualifiers draw to a close. First up for Northern Ireland is an intriguing home fixture against Serbia at a bouncing Windsor Park tomorrow evening.
Northern Ireland faced Serbia in March in front of a deserted Marakana stadium in Belgrade. Serbian fans were banned from attending the fixture following the abandonment of their game against Italy in Genoa due to crowd trouble. The Northern Ireland side left Belgrade with little to show for their efforts. Despite taking the lead from a Gareth McAuley header, Northern Ireland conceded two quick fire goals in the second half. Manager Nigel Worthington will be hoping for another famous night under the Windsor lights tomorrow night.
Nigel Worthington’s side then face a crucial away fixture in Tallinn on Tuesday evening, where they will be hoping to come away with three points. However, defeating Estonia will not be an easy task. The Baltic men have defeated Serbia by three goals to one last October and are still in with an outside chance of making the play-offs.
Speaking to the Mid Ulster Mail, Aaron was looking forward to the game against the Serbs.
“It will be a much tougher game than the Faroes match. While we can go into the tie with confidence we must keep in mind that Serbia are a very good team.”
Hughes and his team mates were disappointed to leave Belgrade without any points and he acknowledges that it will be a tough fixture.
“Out in Serbia it was extremely close. We had a very good first half, a performance to rate alongside our very best. However, they showed their strength in depth with some fine technical changes in the second half, which were good enough to edge them home.”
Hughes concluded by saying that he is looking forward to another noisy night at Windsor Park and stated that every game from now on in is a must win fixture.
“People will say this is a must win game, but then when you get to a certain stage in all qualifying competitions every match becomes a must win.”
Local Northern Ireland supporters club, 1st Royal Cookstown NISC are travelling in numbers to both the game in Belfast and the fixture in Estonia and hope that two good results could push Northern Ireland a little bit closer to that elusive place in the Euro 2012 tournament next summer.
Maurice Clements, a prominent member of the club, has been following Northern Ireland since 1952.
“We have four tight games left and anything is possible. Over the last few years our main hurdle has been defeating the weaker teams in the group.”
“The Faroes result away in Torshavn last October was disappointing but I am hopeful we can rise to the occasion next Friday and defeat the Serbs. The supporters can help spur the team onto victory and push our players onto to another famous win.”