Davis ‘thinks’ Baraclough is still best man for NI

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis thinks manager Ian Baraclough is still the best man to take the team forward despite ending a disappointing Nations League campaign with another defeat.

There were calls from some travelling Northern Ireland fans for Baraclough to resign at the end of Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to Greece in Athens.

When asked if the manager still has the backing of the dressing room, Davis said: “Yes, I think so, I think everyone is in it together.”

The defeat meant NI only survived facing a relegation play-off from the third tier on goal difference, as they finished with five points from six games having started as the group’s top seeds.

“We are all trying to work to try and improve, we wanted to back up the Kosovo game, to come here and get a result,” Davis added.

“I know it is difficult to try to come away and get a result, but obviously we couldn’t do that tonight.”

A goalkeeping error from Bailey Peacock-Farrell gifted Dimitrios Pelkas an early opener for the Greeks, but Shayne Lavery equalised three minutes later.

Giorgos Masouras slotted home to restore Greece’s advantage and Petros Mantalos blasted in the third.

While Cyprus losing to Kosovo on the same night meant Northern Ireland finished above them on goal difference, the defeat in Athens means Baraclough’s men drop down to Pot 5 for October’s Euro 2024 qualifying draw.

“I think it’s a shared frustration from everybody, including the manager, in terms of the performances and the results,” Davis added.

“Obviously we have been conceding too many goals in general in games. We have been having good spells but we need to put that all together and get back to doing the basics well.

“I think that we have conceded that first goal too many times and it gives you a big task to try and get back into the game. There is a lot for us to work on but there is quality within the squad and we believe we should be getting better results.”

Davis to ‘reflect’ on international future

Davis, who made an uncharacteristic mistake when he gave away the ball for Greece’s second goal, said the 1,000-strong travelling Northern Ireland support gave the team good backing during the match.

“I think during the game the fans have shown their support once again during the 90 minutes and that is all we can ask,” he said.

“They have continued to do that regardless of how the team is performing throughout my Northern Ireland career.

“They just want to see us winning games, like ourselves, we want to be winning games and it is frustrating when we don’t.”

Steven Davis (right) have the captain’s armband to Jonny Evans (centre) on his 100th cap as NI fell to defeat in Greece

Davis won his 140th cap on a night when he gave the captain’s armband to long-term team-mate Jonny Evans, who was making his 100th international appearance.

It is not certain if Northern Ireland’s record caps holder will take the armband back for the next game, with the 37-year-old Rangers midfielder saying he would consider his international future now this Nations League campaign is over.

“I have said over the last few years that when it comes to the end of the campaign it is important to sit down and reflect, and make sure you can still contribute moving forward,” he said.

“That is something I need to do, and have a chat with my family and my manager. I don’t know if we are going to have a game in November or not, I don’t think there is one arranged so at this moment in time the next games will be March for us.”

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