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Northern Ireland 0-0 Slovenia

Slovenia's Zlatan Ljubijankic battles for the ball with Northern Ireland captain Gareth McAuley
Captain McAuley squandered Northern Ireland's best chance from a header

By Lyle Jackson
BBC Sport NI

Northern Ireland dropped two vital points in their Euro 2012 campaign as they played out a disappointing draw against Slovenia at Windsor Park.

Deprived of key players like Steve Davis, Aaron Hughes and Kyle Lafferty, the home side failed to take hold of a game they badly needed to win.

Gareth McAuley had a header cleared off the line, while Chris Brunt just missed getting a scoring touch six yards out.

Slovenia had a late chance but Lee Camp saved from substitute Zlatko Dedic.

The only good news on the night was the 1-1 draw between Estonia and Serbia, which means Northern Ireland remain two points off second place in Group C.

But without the injured Davis and Lafferty, Nigel Worthington's side were second best throughout much of the game.

The first half was a dull affair with the hosts struggling to make an impression as they attempted to revive their qualifying hopes.

The home team's only decent effort at goal in the first period was Sammy Clingan's free-kick just before the break, which curled just above the angle of post and crossbar.

Armin Bacinovic of Slovenia closes in as Northern Ireland's Warren Feeney shields the ball
The hosts surrendered possession after playing high balls to Feeney

Before that, Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Camp, in his first match at Windsor Park, dived to tip over a shot from distance by Valter Birsa.

In the second half skipper McAuley's header was cleared off the line by Matej Mavric, although the Ipswich defender could could have made more of the chance.

As the game entered the last 10 minutes, the home side produced their best move of the match.

Jonny Evans played a fine cross-field ball to his brother Corry on the right who laid it back across goal first time with a neat touch. Brunt raced to meet it inside the six-yard box but the ball agonisingly brushed his boot and crept to safety.

There was time for Camp to make a fine save from Dedic and for substitute Josh McQuoid to make an unsuccessful penalty appeal.

Brunt picked up a booking late on, which rules him out of the next qualifier at home to the Faroe Islands in August.

Northern Ireland: Camp, Cathcart, McAuley, Craigan, Jonathan Evans, Corry Evans (Boyce 90), Baird, Clingan, McCann (McQuoid 71), Brunt, Feeney (McCourt 83).

Slovenia: Samir Handanovic, Brecko, Suler, Mavric, Jokic, Birsa, Bacinovic (Sukalo 90), Koren, Kirm, Ilicic (Ljubijankic 29), Novakovic (Dedic 84).

Att: 11,299

Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)

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see also
Worthington upbeat despite draw
29 Mar 11 |  Football
NI v Slovenia photos
30 Mar 11 |  Football
Pundits' view on N Ireland
30 Mar 11 |  Irish
Worthington praises NI players
30 Mar 11 |  Irish
Serbia 2-1 N Ireland
25 Mar 11 |  Football
Worthington happy with NI effort
25 Mar 11 |  Football
Serbia v NI photos
25 Mar 11 |  Football
Craigan dropped for NI qualifier
25 Mar 11 |  Football
Lafferty in fitness boost for NI
20 Mar 11 |  Football
Keeper Camp included in NI squad
14 Mar 11 |  Irish
Worthington upbeat despite defeat
09 Feb 11 |  Irish

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