The Football League Paper - - TFLP - By John Lyons

THE World Cup hopes of a host of EFL play­ers will be on the line when North­ern Ire­land take on Switzer­land to­day.

It’s go­ing to be a tough task for Michael O’Neill’s men to earn a ticket to Rus­sia as they trail 1-0 from the first leg in Belfast on Thurs­day night.

The goal was a con­tro­ver­sial one – Ri­cardo Ro­driguez scored from the penalty spot just be­fore the hour af­ter Black­burn’s Corry Evans was harshly ad­judged to have han­dled in­side the area when the ball ap­peared to strike his shoul­der. Evans was also booked and will now be sus­pended for the sec­ond leg in Basel.

“The ball hit Corry more on his back at the top of his shoul­der, so it is in­cred­i­ble,” fumed boss O'Neill. “No-one had claimed a penalty and I thought the ref­eree had blown for a foul or off­side.

“It was such a defining mo­ment in the match and we feel very hard done by.”

“It’s dis­grace­ful,” Evans told the BBC. “I clearly didn’t put my hand up. I’m gut­ted. It’s dev­as­tat­ing.”

There were half a dozen EFL play­ers who started for the Ir­ish in the first leg – Michael McGovern (Nor­wich), Conor McLaugh­lin (Mill­wall), Oliver Nor­wood (Ful­ham, on loan from Brighton), Corry Evans (Black­burn), Josh Ma­gen­nis (Charl­ton) and Stu­art Dal­las (Leeds).


Mill­wall’s George Sav­ille, QPR’s Conor Wash­ing­ton and Not­ting­ham For­est’s Jamie Ward came off the bench, but couldn’t change their for­tunes.

“We are still in the tie,” said O’Neill. “Maybe a ref­eree will give us a de­ci­sion in the sec­ond leg.”

The Repub­lic of Ire­land, who also have a num­ber of EFL play­ers in their squad, played Den­mark last night in the first leg of their play­off. The re­turn takes place in Dublin on Tues­day night.

Mean­while, Not­ting­ham For­est striker Ja­son Cum­mings, 22, made his se­nior de­but for Scot­land as a late sub­sti­tute in their 1-0 friendly de­feat against Hol­land at Pit­to­drie on Thurs­day night.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

SPOT OF BOTHER: Corry Evans is pe­nalised for a ‘hand­ball’ against Switzer­land

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