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Republic of Ireland 0-0 Belgium: O'Shea backs Ferguson to end goal drought after penalty miss

Evan Ferguson and John O'Shea
Evan Ferguson has received the backing of interim Republic of Ireland manager John O'Shea

Interim Republic of Ireland manager John O'Shea backed Evan Ferguson to end his goal drought after the Brighton teenager missed a penalty during Saturday's 0-0 draw with Belgium.

The 19-year-old striker had a first-half spot-kick saved by Matz Sels at the Aviva Stadium.

That extended his run without a goal for either club or country to 21 games dating back to the end of November.

"It's one of those things. It happens with top strikers," said O'Shea.

"He'll have another spell five, six years down the line of a couple of months without a goal.

"As soon as he gets on the goal trail again, he'll be back on a run."

Ferguson's opportunity came 24 minutes into the game when fellow teenager Arthur Vermeeren was adjudged to have handled inside the area.

However, Ferguson slipped as he approached the ball and Sels blocked his mis-hit attempt with his legs.

O'Shea said: "It was just unfortunate. Ev had a little slip just before he knocked it so it would have put him off. But look, a youngster stepping up like that, it shows the courage he has and he didn't let it affect him.

"He knocked into the centre-backs as soon as he could again, got his confidence going and it's one of those things. He was unlucky with one - he got himself in a great position second half as well."

O'Shea, capped 118 times by the Republic, recalled former team-mates Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady and handed a debut to Blackburn forward Sammie Szmodics for the meeting with the Belgians.

The Irish were solid and although Ferguson's physicality and Chiedozie Ogbene's pace posed a threat, they were unable to find a way past keeper Sels.

O'Shea added: "Look, it's a frustrating one because you appreciate Belgium had a decent bit of possession but we kind of felt beforehand that we didn't mind that in a sense because we knew the damage we could create against them on the break.

"If you take those chances when they arrive in the game, that even opens up Belgium a little bit more for us and we can exploit that even more, so it's a frustrating one in that sense.

"But look, you're playing Belgium in Dublin, you'd take a clean sheet... but a little bit disappointed in the end too."

O'Shea will be in charge again for the second of his side's March friendly internationals against Switzerland in Dublin on Tuesday evening (19:45).