Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill praised Fleetwood full-back Conor McLaughlin for his performance in the goalless World Cup qualifier in the Czech Republic.
Right-back McLaughlin was recalled to NI’s starting side for the opening qualifier on Sunday, having featured only once in their successful Euro 16 campaign that saw O’Neill’s men reach the last 16.
Fleetwood head coach Uwe Rosler was pleased to have kept hold of Belfast-born McLaughlin this summer and O’Neill was full of praise for the 25-year-old and for fellow League One player Shane Ferguson of Millwall, who was asked to play out of position at left-back as his defence kept the Czechs at bay in Prague.
The point could be key as the Irish look forward to their next group game against the minnows of San Marino on October 8.
O’Neill said: “I thought our two centre-halves were magnificent and our two full-backs did great.
“Conor came in and was excellent and Shane came in at left back.
“We don’t have a left back who is playing first-team football. Daniel Lafferty has recently gone to Sheffield United, so we are asking Shane to play in a position that is not his natural position.
“He did very well and I think we should realise where we are a little bit.
“We are very dependant on our key players, but we had two lads stepping up from League One and coming to play on the international stage who did not look out of place.”