Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough said it was “understandable” that fans shouted “cheerio” at him after the 3-2 defeat to Kosovo.
A large portion of Pristina’s 500 traveling fans showed their frustrations to Baraclough when he went to greet them at the end of Thursday’s Nations League game.
Before the match, he said he believed he was still the best man to lead the NI.
They won just three of 19 competitive games during their reign.
Baraclough said: “They are here, they want to follow and watch their team, but what do we do with the players that are being bled and building for the future?
“We knew we had to go through some pain in that too and we are as it goes along.
“You’ll see improvements and you’ve seen a difference between the first two games and tonight.”
‘Let’s not all be negative’
The defeat in Kosovo means Northern Ireland have secured just one point in consecutive away games against teams ranked more than 50 places below them.
It continued what has been a dismal start for Nations League Group C2 for Northern Ireland, who were top seed for this opening quadruple match after being relegated from the competition’s second tier.
It also extends an extremely frustrating winless streak in the competition, first launched in 2018, to 13 matches – with Baraclough overseeing six defeats and three draws during his two years in charge.
The former Motherwell manager had said he was looking for four wins in those four opening games, but now they head into Sunday’s home game with the Cypriots on just one point after opening with a 1-0 loss to Greece. before an uninspiring 0 x 0. draw in Cyprus on Sunday.
He again pointed to inexperience on his side – with Stuart Dallas, Josh Magennis, Corry Evans and Craig Cathcart all absent – and having given Brodie Spencer and Conor McMenamin their full Kosovo debuts.
“Count the caps,” he said. “Take Steven [Davis]Johnny [Evans]Kyle [Lafferty] aside and see how inexperienced the group is.
“We lost Paddy McNair the morning of the game. They have to learn and get that experience from somewhere.
“I thought the lads showed great spirit, the lads coming off the bench as well. Shea Charles, Conor Bradley, they’re lads who haven’t been around for a few months, who could expect to play for Under-21s or Under-19s.
“Let’s not all be negative about the way they played. Yes, about the result. I understand that and I understand the fans’ frustration, but there are ways to lose a football game and that’s it.”
‘Windsor fan will support NI against Cyprus’
Northern Ireland were trailing 2-0 in the 20th minute in Pristina through a Vedat Muriqi penalty and a Zymer Bytyqi shot.
Shayne Lavery set back a goal for the visitors at half-time, but after Muriqi scored again early in the second half, Daniel Ballard’s 83rd-minute header provided a frantic finish in which McMenamin missed a great chance to grab an unlikely draw.
There was enormous pressure on Baraclough and the players for Thursday’s match, and this will intensify even further as anything short of a home win over Cyprus would surely lead to an ever-increasing backlash from the Windsor Park crowd. .
“Play like that, with that intensity and positivity, and create the chances that we created and I’m sure we’ll win the game,” added Baraclough.
“If Windsor can support the youngsters, support the team completely, it’s up to us to do something, start with intensity and take the game to the opponent.
“I think the fans will be behind the team, it’s not a problem.”