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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 September, 2004, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Pressure tells on Wales
By Kevin Ratcliffe
Former Wales and Everton captain

As usual, when the expectation was on us we failed to deliver.

Mark Pembridge in action in Baku
We looked a yard off the pace for much of the game
Two years ago we were coming here saying we must not lose, and we ended up winning.

This time we were saying we've got to win and that brings a different type of pressure.

I was impressed with Azerbaijan, they are a much-improved side, but we should have got three points.

We looked a yard off the pace for much of the game, but at the start of the second half that yard was there and we got a great goal.

It was disappointing to concede the goal we did, you have to look at Paul Jones and say he should have done better.

He got a good hand to the free kick and should have been able to push it around the post.

I watched the reaction of the players and Andy Melville's looking at Paul and saying 'what happened there?'

The home fans and team reacted to a great strike, stepped up a gear and we couldn't cope.

Danny Gabbidon filled in at left-back
I think we missed Ben Thatcher
We had the likes of John Oster and Jason Koumas on the pitch and they are great going forward, but they can be undisciplined and we lost shape in defence.

I think we missed Ben Thatcher. Danny Gabbidon is not a left-back, he'll do a job but when he advances he can't deliver the right quality of ball into the box.

He was great defending, but a few problems were caused when he was pulled forward out of position.

Anatoliy Ponomarev was getting a lot of ball, playing off the front two and creating difficulties.

Mark Hughes countered that at the end by changing the shape, but I thought he could have done it earlier in the game.

He brought Rob Earnshaw onto the wing to revert to the system that was successful in Euro 2004 qualifying, with Bellamy also out wide giving us five across the middle.

That allowed Robbie Savage to sit in front of the back four to help protect them.

We have to raise things for Northern Ireland on Wednesday, but my big concern is the fitness of Andy Melville and John Hartson.

Andy had an injury scare before the Azerbaijan game, and with his experience in Scotland I'm not sure if John can play two big games in a week.






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