Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough says his side’s dramatic Euro play-off semi-final penalty shootout success was the result of a well executed gameplan.
Late substitutes Liam Boyce and Conor Washington both scored spot-kicks as NI progressed 4-3 on penalties after the match had ended 1-1 after extra-time.
“It [penalties] is something we spoke about and worked on,” said Baraclough.
“Who are the best penalty takers and who are the most confident stepping up. We had a gameplan in place.”
The introduction of the two NI strikers in the 120th minute at the expense of Jordan Thompson and Jordan Jones, who had also come off the bench, represented a bold move from Baraclough but one that paid rich dividends.
“We were desperate for the ball to go out of play to get Boycie and Conor on the pitch,” explained the NI boss.
“The two lads that had come on as subs earlier were selfless. We knew they weren’t as strong penalty takers.
“Our planning had involved going away and practicing your penalty, put it in the place you want to put it and don’t change your mind.”
McGinn ‘put his hand up’ for selection
Rade Krunic’s goal gave the Bosnians a half-time lead but Niall McGinn’s second-half equaliser justified the faith put in the Aberdeen winger by Baraclough when other players were knocking on the door for selection in the starting line-up.
“I felt he had a goal in him. You see him in training on Monday, on Tuesday and it made my mind up,” said Baraclough of McGinn.
“He was bright, you could see there was a hunger there. Certain training sessions we did, we were asking him to do things and he did it and more.
“I came with eight or nine players in mind to start the game but I had to make my mind up about the others.
“Luckily Niall was the one that put his hand up and really said ‘go and pick me’.
“I was delighted for Niall – his industry to get himself into position and to calmly finish was fantastic. I’m really pleased for him.”
Getting a foothold
Baraclough was disappointed by his side’s inability to impose themselves on the game early on but was pleased that the performance improved.
“I didn’t think we were great in the first half. We certainly talked about getting in their faces a bit more, putting them under pressure when their back four were coming out with it.
“For some reason that didn’t seem to happen and it wasn’t until we got to speak to one or two players with 10 minutes to go in the first half that we started to get a bit more of a foothold in the game.
“We spoke again about the intensity and closing down in certain areas and driving us forward as a team – also being more forceful in attack.
“Their two centre-halves looked shaky from balls going into the box and we thought we could get at them if we got good crosses in.”
‘Fitting night for Davis’
The victory proved a fitting way to mark Steven Davis’ record 120th cap for Northern Ireland as the Rangers midfielder overtook Pat Jennings’ previous benchmark.
“It was a fitting night for him,” Baraclough added. “There was a lot of pressure on his shoulders as well and he’s obviously delighted to have reached that milestone.
“I can’t be any more pleased for him for what he has given to Northern Irish football has been second to none. When things weren’t going so well he always turned up.”