Michael O'Neill encouraged by NI performance in Israel
Last updated on .From the section Football
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill says he is encouraged by his side's 1-1 World Cup qualifier draw with Israel in Tel Aviv.
Eden Ben Basat gave Israel the lead but NI skipper Steven Davis equalised.
"A draw was the very least we deserved. On another day Martin Paterson's late chance goes into the net and you nick an away win," said O'Neill.
"This is a team that is slowly but surely going in the right direction and we have to believe in ourselves more."
O'Neill admitted that his side failed to create enough chances in the first half of the game but added that "the shape of the team was excellent".
"We could have been a bit more dynamic in possession and it was disappointing to lose a goal two minutes before half-time.
"We changed our shape after the break - Jamie (Ward) came in and gave us that little spark. The character we showed in the second half was really encouraging.
"Chris Baird slotted into defence and we played with three at the back. After that, we pretty much controlled the game, although Israel had a go in the last five minutes."
O'Neill praised the impact made by Baird and Sammy Clingan, who had been forced out of the international picture in recent months because of their failure to find clubs.
"Chris gives you versatility, while Sammy was excellent too," enthused the NI boss.
"I'm delighted that Steven got the goal too as he played every minute of every game and it hasn't been easy being captain when you consider some of the setbacks we have had. He's led by example throughout the campaign.
"The lads have applied themselves well, but they just have to be mentally tougher in some games.
"If we continue to work hard, we can try to achieve that third spot in the next Euro qualifiers which would give us a shot at qualification.
"We haven't been outplayed in any game - we just have to turn those draws into wins and defeats into draws. We have competition for places across the team, which is good too."