Q Radio Sport
Northern Ireland drew 0-0 with Switzerland at Windsor Park on Wednesday night to keep their dreams of World Cup qualification alive.
Missing the likes of the Evans brothers and Stuart Dallas, Ian Baraclough's men were good value for their point.
GAWA goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell saved a penalty for the second World Cup qualifier in a row.
He got down to deny Haris Seferovic ensuring there would be no repeat of events four years ago - when Ricardo Rodriguez's hugely controversial spot-kick for the Swiss ended Northern Irish hopes of reaching the 2018 finals.
Northern Ireland looked the more threatening side from open play - thanks in large part to the energy and directness of Shayne Lavery.
🎥 "Have a look at this first touch - it's absolutely perfect!"— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) September 8, 2021
Just watch Northern Ireland's Shayne Lavery go as he races through the Swiss defence in World Cup qualifying at Windsor Park:@NorthernIreland #GAWA pic.twitter.com/XJXdl290Nt
Though their industry was not rewarded with a win which would have moved them up to second in Group C, a draw against a side some 37 places above them in the world rankings was another positive result for Baraclough to build on.
Having made nine changes for Sunday's 1-0 friendly win in Estonia, the manager switched back to the side that won 4-1 in Lithuania last week, with the exception of Ciaron Brown who replaced the suspended Paddy McNair.
Roared on by almost 16,000 fans, the first major crowd at Windsor Park since November 2019, Northern Ireland started the game on the front foot as they sought to put pressure on Switzerland.
Captain Steven Davis had highlighted Lavery - who got his first international goal in Vilnius - as the sort of player who would get the Green and White Army off their seats and he did just that after nine minutes.
As Switzerland's defenders left Craig Cathcart's long ball to each other, the Blackpool striker skipped through to race at goal, though he could not quite get the ball out of his feet before shooting narrowly wide.
But the 22-year-old's all-action approach was offering Northern Ireland a different sort of outlet, and giving the Swiss defence plenty to think about as the hosts built some sustained pressure.
It all threatened to go wrong just after the half-hour mark, however, when Michael Smith - already on a booking - was guilty of pushing Ruben Vargas to the ground in the area, with Austrian referee Harald Lechner pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Seferovic, but his penalty was too straight and too soft to beat Peacock-Farrell, who saved from the spot for a second consecutive qualifier after his crucial block kept Northern Ireland in front in Lithuania last Thursday.
🎥 "Bailey Peacock-Farrell does it again! He is becoming a goalkeeping icon in that Northern Ireland shirt!"— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) September 8, 2021
Switzerland pen & BPF becomes the 1st NI keeper to save spot kicks in back-to-back competitive games. Vital - it ends 0-0@NorthernIreland #GAWA pic.twitter.com/WZ4D1OLd0J
Lavery was quickly back in action early in the second half, winning a dangerous free-kick when brought down by Manuel Akanji before Denis Zakaria was booked for stopping his run on the halfway line.
Switzerland were able to get more of a foot on the ball as the hour mark approached, carving out a chance for Seferovic which was comfortably held by Peacock-Farrell.
The intensity seemed to have dipped for Northern Ireland, and with Smith pulling up with an injury, Baraclough made a double substitution, sending on young Liverpool right-back Conor Bradley while replacing Conor Washington with Dion Charles.
It was another substitute who had the next chance when the ball fell to him in the box, but George Saville's shot on the turn was quickly charged down.
Daniel Ballard got up to meet a corner but could not get enough power in his effort, and that was the last clear chance as the sides had to settle for a point on the night.
FT: World Cup qualifier— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) September 8, 2021
Northern Ireland 0
Heroic effort v quality team. Steven Davis, always there; Shayne Lavery a Windsor menace; Bailey Peacock-Farrell pen save, again. And the rest. Wasn't to be tonight, but green shoots for the future@NorthernIreland #GAWA pic.twitter.com/tZETbpdAdK
Northern Ireland have kept four clean sheets in their last six matches, as many as their previous 21 fixtures beforehand.
Both of Switzerland's last two internationals have finished goalless; they had gone 24 games without drawing 0-0 before this (excluding awarded 3-0 win v Ukraine in November 2020).
Northern Ireland have played out back-to-back goalless draws at home for the first time since October 2002.
Switzerland have failed to score each of their last four penalties taken in all competitions (excluding shootouts).
Northern Ireland did not manage a shot on target in this match, the first time they have done so since November 2019 in a EURO 2020 qualifier against Netherlands.
What the manager said…
Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough: "You cannot knock our work-rate or endeavour, we were solid throughout as a team and they found us difficult to break down. I couldn't be prouder of the players. The young players became men. There were no clear-cut chances apart from the penalty, which was debatable in my eyes.
"The guy got in front of Michael [Smith]. He had his hand on his back but there was no push there. By the time it happened, the ball was over everybody's heads and was going out of play.
"It wasn't stopping him getting to the ball. He threw himself to the ground because he knew the ball was going out of play.
"By the letter of the law, he has a hand on him (but) there are so many situations when there is a hand on a player, if we're going to start giving penalties, we're going to get 10 penalties a game."
Northern Ireland resume their qualifying campaign away in Switzerland on Saturday October 9 before travelling to Bulgaria three days later.
🎥 Let's hear it for the fans! NI boss Ian Baraclough pays tribute after the Green and White Army returns in force to Windsor Park, almost 16,000 at the game. Bara's aiming to complete the 'thank you' with a big WCQ win next month in Switzerland:👇 #GAWA pic.twitter.com/tWiT9iKjvf— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) September 8, 2021
There were two derby games in the Women's Premiership on Wednesday night, with home wins in both:
.@marissac_17 strikes twice as 10-player @CVilleLadiesFC march on v North Belfast rivals - to top of #DanskeWomensPrem ahead of possible title decider @GlentoranWomen— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) September 8, 2021
Victory for @SionSwiftsLFC in North West derby
📸 CSX Sports/Chris Scott