George Saville believes Northern Ireland owe their fans victory in next month’s high-profile friendly against the Republic of Ireland after suffering further frustration in the Nations League.
The Green and White Army travelled in huge numbers for this weekend’s games in Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina but endured two defeats without a goal as Northern Ireland lost 1-0 in Vienna and 2-0 in Sarajevo.
Attention now turns to next month’s fixture at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, a match of huge significance to fans of both teams.
“We owe the fans, especially in a game of that magnitude,” Saville said. “We need to win that football match. We owe the fans a lot.
“They were in here in numbers again, singing all night and even long after the final whistle we could hear them in the changing room. They were absolutely brilliant.
“They really inspire us with all their support – it’s mind-blowing how supportive they are.
“They are just fantastic. I have never seen anything like it and we as a team appreciate every single one of them and how they support us home and away.”
Monday’s defeat in Sarajevo was a sadly familiar tale for Northern Ireland in recent outings. They created a number of chances and hit posts three times, but conceded twice as Bosnia punished defensive mistakes to leave Michael O’Neill’s side without a point in their Nations League group.
“I think we’re just as good as Austria and Bosnia,” added Saville, who was the first to strike an upright as he had three good chances in the opening 20 minutes.
“We played well in patches and even at 1-0 down we had chances. If we had taken them I honestly believe we would have gone on to win the football match. We need to start taking our chances and start winning football matches.”
Gavin Whyte missed the pick of the openings, firing a rebound against a post when it looked easier to score.
“As soon as it landed, it came out to me really quick and I should be doing better, but it’s about creating those chances,” said the 22-year-old, who was making only his second Northern Ireland appearance having scored with his first touch on debut against Israel last month.
“I can’t really remember too much about it because it came at me really quick.
“I didn’t really get my footing right and at this level I should be taking those chances.”
Whyte hit a post again in stoppage time as his cross was deflected, but after the match manager Michael O’Neill praised his positive impact.
“That’s what Michael said when I was going on – you have to be positive,” Whyte added.
“Play like the player you are, run at players and I think I did that.”
Northern Ireland have now gone six games without a goal away from home, and it is 13 months since their last competitive victory.
But all that can be forgotten if they win in Dublin next month.
“The Republic’s a massive game for us,” said Stuart Dallas.
“Although it’s a friendly, everybody knows what it means. It’s a big game. I don’t think it needs to be built up any more than what the press will do. We as players know what it means and you can be sure that there’ll be a top performance put on.”