English League 1

Laws states case for defence

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Sat, 23 Mar 2013 20:07:00

Switzerland missed the chance to build a dominant lead in World Cup qualifying Group E after a 0-0 draw in Cyprus.

Ottmar Hitzfeld's men pulled two points clear of second-placed Iceland but they would be enjoying a four-point cushion had Haris Seferovic scored in second half stoppage time.

Cyprus, meanwhile, move off the bottom and above Slovenia thanks to a point earned from an impressive display in which Dimitris Christofi twice went dangerously close.

Gokhan Inler warmed Antonis Georgallides' palms first but it was Cyprus who would dominate the early exchanges.

Compact football allowed Christos Theophilou in for a free header before Konstantinos Charalambidis blasted just past a post.

Xherdan Shaqiri then spurned a clear chance and the Swiss were nearly punished when Yann Sommer tipped Christofi's drive to safety. Konstantinos Makridis came even closer when he hit the upright in the 33rd minute.

Cyprus pressed on after the break and Sommer did well to push another Christofi thunderbolt over his crossbar. Shaqiri then repeated the trick at the other end with Georgallides equally wise to the move.

Both sides enjoyed late chances to score a winner, with Georgios Efrem's dipping drive being held by Sommer three minutes from time.

Then, seven minutes into time added on, Seferovic nodded the ball just off target from six yards out.

In difficult conditions due to the falling snow, neither side were able to break the deadlock but the 0-0 scoreline was viewed positively Yates.

The visitors went closest to winning it as Kaid Mohamed crashed a shot against a post after good work by Jermaine McGlashan shortly after the break.

Barnet's best moment fell to midfielder John Oster but he fired just wide of Scott Brown's goal.

Cheltenham fell to fifth in the table but moved a point closer to the top three, pleasing Yates.

He said: "I'm proud and pleased we haven't got beaten as this is a tough place to come and the conditions were difficult as well for both sides.

"We wanted to give our strikers a little bit more to work with and we did that in the last 20 minutes. I wanted us to make space in behind them and use the wings, and we did that for most of the game. We couldn't quite finish it off and as the game went on we got a bit bogged down with the pitch.

"We had to make a few changes as the game went on and that gave us a bit more of a threat in the wide areas.

"I felt a bit for the boys and the paying supporters as well because even though that could be an important point for us, it wasn't the most entertaining game to watch because of the weather and conditions."

Play-off outsiders Oxford had won their last three games on the road but Ben Harding grabbed the crucial winner as Cobblers maintained their promotion push with a ninth straight home success.

U's boss Wilder said: "I'm disappointed not to be going away with all three points let alone one. I don't think we deserved to get beaten, especially based on our second-half performance.

"But, as has been the case all season, we've not done it in the final third. We got into some great positions in the second half and I also thought we had the better chances in the first half.

"But we conceded more than two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Andy Whing got took about by Clive Platt and before we know the ball is in the back of the net.

"We gave it a right go in the second half but for the second week running we've not punished teams. We need players to be brave enough to take a chance.

"We kept going right to the end and that's what we'll do right to the end of the season but we know we've got to win a lot of games now to get into the play-offs. Northampton are a very strong side, especially at home, and we pushed them all the way."

In difficult conditions due to the falling snow, neither side were able to break the deadlock but the 0-0 scoreline was viewed positively by both Bees boss Edgar Davids.

The visitors went closest to winning it as Kaid Mohamed crashed a shot against a post after good work by Jermaine McGlashan shortly after the break.

Barnet's best moment fell to midfielder John Oster but he fired just wide of Scott Brown's goal.

Davids was left satisfied with a seventh home game unbeaten.

"The game should absolutely have gone ahead - I've played in worse," said the former Holland international. "We did quite well against a team that is higher in the table and we knew it would be hard.

"I have great faith in this team and we were unlucky not to win. We put pressure on them and I'm happy that we did that.

"They are a strong side and it was hard to play on this pitch. You have to bring more to the table against a good team and we did well. At the end I think we were the better team.

"We are making a lot of progress and it's easy to stop playing football, but we kept playing the way we want to. It's about character and my team showed big heart.

"Every game is a final now and we will take it one game at a time. We have to get our points and get good results. It's do or die for us and there's no other way."

Rovers got off to a flying start with an own goal from David Mirfin after just five minutes. Iain Hume made it 2-0 after 39 minutes and although the Iron hit back through Mark Duffy two minutes later, a Chris Brown strike early in the second half sealed victory for the league leaders.

A scrambled late reply from Karl Hawley was unable to prevent Scunthorpe from slipping to a 10th home defeat of the season

"We have been playing better than this in recent weeks without getting the results," said Laws. "But the goals we conceded were atrocious from our point of view. You cannot give a team like Doncaster a start like that.

"There was no real danger when the ball came into our box for the first goal, but the ball ends up in the back of our net.

Our reaction was to look nervous. We defended poorly, passed the ball poorly and with all the mistakes we were making in the first half, it was inevitable Doncaster would score again.

"We then got ourselves back into the game before half-time and needed to start the second half well - but we concede another early goal and the game is gone.

"The defensive mistakes we made left us with too much to do against a team like Doncaster and, to be honest, I don't think we did well enough to deserve anything from the game.

"We are fighting to avoid relegation but giving goals away like we did does not help our cause. We had been improving defensively, but not today."

A fourth successive defeat leaves Scunthorpe in the bottom four - and Laws admits there is no easy way out.

"Our hands are tied, we have what we have got and we have got to try and lift the players again," he added.

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