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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK
NI goal drought continues
Northern Ireland 0-1 Armenia

NI's David Healy (left) and Tommy Doherty go on the attack against Armenia
NI's David Healy and Tommy Doherty go on the attack

The misery continued for Northern Ireland when they crashed to a home defeat against Armenia in Wednesday's Euro 2004 qualifier.

Northern Ireland were hoping to end their infamous goal famine and overtake the Armenians in Group Six.

But, once again, Sammy McIlroy's men had little luck in front of goal and have now failed to score in their last 12 matches.

The defeat means Northern Ireland are four points adrift at the bottom of the group and will finish with the wooden spoon no matter what happens in the final qualifier away to Greece on 11 October.

The only goal at a wet Windsor Park was slammed in by Armenian substitute Arman Karamyan on 27 minutes after an attack was given space down the left flank.

Just seconds earlier, Leicester winger Keith Gillespie, seen as the best hope of unlocking the Armenian defence, limped off with a leg injury that had earlier threatened his involvement in the game.

It's hard to take in all those chances that went astray
Sammy McIlroy
Tommy Doherty also had to go off, with Philip Mulryne and Steve Jones coming off the bench at an early stage of the game.

It was Jones, however, who twice went close to grabbing a first-half equaliser for an anxious home side.

The Crewe player saw a rasping shot tipped on to the bar and just before half-time directed a close-range header straight at keeper Berezovski.

Before the Armenian goal, the hard-working Andy Smith saw a header drift just wide while David Healy just missed out on punishing a mistake in the Armenian defence.

Northern Ireland were not giving up, and again they had their chances in the second period.

Sammy McIlroy's side has not scored in the last 12 internationals
Sammy McIlroy's face says it all after another defeat in Belfast
The best chance fell to Jones, who after more excellent work by the industrious Johnson on the right, saw a header turned aside by Berezovski.

Johnson, who was by far Northern Ireland's best player, received the yellow card 15 minutes before the end, and will miss the trip to Greece.

But despite some brave efforts again by Smith and Johnson, NI's dearth of goals continued as they stretched their blank scoreline to a remarkable 1152 minutes.

It was a statistic that did not amuse McIlroy who could not fathon what happened.

''Personally I just cannot believe that we have lost again,'' said McIlroy.

''At the end of the day we just have to keep on going and keeping our heads up.

''But it's hard to take in all those chances that went astray.''


Northern Ireland: Taylor; Baird, McCann, McCartney, Hughes; Griffin, Gillespie, Johnson, Doherty; Healy, Smith.
Subs: Carroll, Murdock, Jones, McVeigh, Mulryne, Kirk, Hamilton.

Armenia: Berezovsky, Melikian, Bilibio, Hovsepian, Zecu, Khachatrian, Artur Petrosian, Voskanyan, Sargsian, Artavadz Karamian, Movsisian.
Subs: Hambardzumian, Morozov, Artur Azat Mkrtchian, Jenebyan, Partsikian, Hakobian, Arman Karamian.

Referee: Anton Stredak (Slovakia).






WATCH AND LISTEN
NI skipper Aaron Hughes
"We do not know when it is going to come for us"



SEE ALSO
NI draw in Ukraine
06 Sep 03  |  Northern Ireland
McIlroy happy with point
06 Sep 03  |  Northern Ireland


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