Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington admitted to some regret despite claiming a creditable 1-1 draw against Poland in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier at the Slaski Stadium.
The province were in sight of a superb victory in Group 3 only for Mariusz Lewandowski to equalise 10 minutes from time. Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty made the breakthrough in the 37th minute, with a clinical finish after a fine move involving Damien Johnson and David Healy.
The home side, though, turned the screw in the second half to salvage a 1-1 draw. Northern Ireland now face leaders Slovakia - who drew with the Czech Republic - on Wednesday with the group still wide open.
Worthington said: "It is a fantastic result tonight but we are all disappointed it is not three points. To come to a country like this, who have a very good team, we put our bodies on the line. Everyone to a man was fantastic. We have got a very good point and the other game has finished in a draw as well. So I think it makes our point even better.
We find ourselves in a magnificent situation with two games to go. My
job is to make sure we get the players physically and mentally right
over the next four days.
"We knew we would be performing in front of a passionate crowd. With a crowd like that, it is a great game to be involved in. The colour, the noise adds to the occasion. I told the players before the game, whatever you do, go out and enjoy it. In the first half they did exactly as I wanted. The second half you are expecting to come under pressure. But the way they stood up to the challenge is part of our make-up and it was important they did it."
Lafferty came off with an ankle injury, which will be assessed tomorrow, and replaced by Martin Paterson, who missed a golden chance of extending Northern Ireland's lead. He latched on to a superb ball from Steve Davis, only to drag his effort wide of the target in the 65th minute.
The Burnley striker was distraught and the end of the game and Worthington said: "I imagine Martin is the same as all strikers, he would love to hit the back of the net. The goals Martin has scored over the years at his clubs you would put good money on him putting it away. So he is disappointed. If we had got it, we would probably have won the game."
Northern Ireland are determined to build on this display when they face Slovakia in Belfast. Worthington said: "It is very simple, we have got to go for the win. We are at home in front of a very passionate crowd. We find ourselves in a magnificent situation with two games to go. My job is to make sure we get the players physically and mentally right over the next four days."