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John O’Shea backs teenager Evan Ferguson to end goal drought after penalty miss

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 23 Mar 2024

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Interim Republic of Ireland boss John O’Shea backed Evan Ferguson to end his goal drought after seeing the Brighton teenager miss a penalty during Saturday’s 0-0 friendly draw with Belgium.

The 19-year-old striker had a first-half spot-kick saved by Matz Sels at the Aviva Stadium to extend his run without a goal for either club or country to 21 games dating back to the end of November.

Asked about Ferguson’s barren spell, O’Shea said: “It’s one of those things. He’ll have another spell five, six years down the line of a couple of months without a goal. It happens with top strikers.

“As soon as he gets on the goal trail again, he’ll be back on a run again.”

Ferguson’s big moment came 24 minutes into the game when fellow teenager Arthur Vermeeren was adjudged to have handled.

However, Ferguson slipped as he approached the ball and Sels blocked his mishit attempt with his legs.

O’Shea said: “It was just unfortunate. Ev had a little slip just before he knocked it, so it would have put him off. But look, a youngster stepping up like that, it shows the courage he has and he didn’t let it affect him.

“He knocked into the centre-backs as soon as he could again, got his confidence going and it’s one of those things. He was unlucky with one – he got himself in a great position second half as well.”

O’Shea, taking charge of the first of two friendlies with Switzerland to come in Dublin on Tuesday evening, blended the old with the new as he recalled former team-mates Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady and handed a debut to Blackburn striker Sammie Szmodics.

Unsurprisingly, he reverted largely to type, asking his team firstly to be difficult to beat after three and a half years of promise, but not results, under Stephen Kenny before he lost his job in November.

As Ireland had been throughout much of his 118-cap international career, O’Shea’s team were solid and threatened most through Ferguson’s physicality and Chiedozie Ogbene’s pace, although without finding a way past keeper Sels.

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