Jeff Hendrick is happy to take on some of the responsibility for ending the Republic of Ireland’s goalscoring drought.
The Burnley midfielder’s strike at the Victoria Stadium on Saturday evening was enough – if only just – to hand Ireland, who had scored only four times in their previous nines games, an opening Euro 2020 qualifier victory over Gibraltar.
It came after he had been challenged to do just that by new manager Mick McCarthy and coach Terry Connor, and it is something he would dearly love to repeat on a regular basis with Tuesday night’s clash with Georgia at the Aviva Stadium the next opportunity.
Hendrick, who last found the back of the net for his country in Serbia in September 2016, said: “We didn’t score enough goals recently, and that’s down to us as players.
“We’ve been told to get into the box and try to score goals, so it’s down to us on the pitch to really work hard to get in there and get on the end of crosses or balls that have been knocked down and that sort of stuff.
“The manager and TC were telling me during the week that I haven’t scored enough goals, and it is something that I knew I hadn’t done and that I wanted to improve on.
“Through the week, I was just trying to get into the box, get on the end of crosses, and maybe it was imprinted in my mind then going into the game and thankfully I scored.”
McCarthy was less than impressed by the performance in Gibraltar but happy enough with the result, although no-one within the camp is labouring under any misapprehension that the clash with the Georgians will be any easier.
Georgia have never beaten Ireland in nine attempts, but the sides drew 1-1 in Tbilisi the last time they met in September 2017, and the Republic can count themselves fortunate to have won each of the last two encounters at the Aviva Stadium by the only goal.
Hendrick said: “If you give any team time on the ball, they’re going to be good. Even at times Gibraltar, if they had the ball, they have players who can hurt you.
“It’s going to be the same again tomorrow. We probably know them a little bit more – we’ve had them in the last two qualifying campaigns – so we know a few of their players, what they can do.
“If you give them time on the ball for them to get their head up and pick out a pass or run with it they can be dangerous, and it’s down to us to stop them doing that.”
That is a view shared by goalkeeper Darren Randolph, who has also seen at close hand how dangerous Vladimir Weiss’ side can be.
Middlesbrough’s Randolph said: “They’re not a terrible team, they’re a very good team, good technical players, so they’ll make it difficult for anybody.
“They’re a decent team, so it will be a tough one tomorrow.”