Striker shortage to ensure Ireland’s ‘unders’ streak survives

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Although the Republic of Ireland have made a name for themselves as surprise-springers under Martin O’Neill, the real shock would be a flood of goals against Slovakia on Tuesday night, given the manager’s history as manager.

In booking a place at Euro 2016 this coming summer, O’Neill went unbeaten against world champions Germany, drew with Poland at home and defeated Bosnia Herzegovina over two legs in the playoffs.

The shocks have continued during this international break, with Ciaran Clark’s early goal handing the Boys in Green a 1-0 win over Switzerland, a mighty fine result considering the injury problems suffered up front.

Ahead of the friendly with Slovakia in Dublin, O’Neill has only Shane Long fit and available in the striking department. But that isn’t the only reason to expect minimal goals in the encounter.

Much of the former Aston Villa manager’s time with the Republic has been spent trying to keep things tight at the back and winning with the odd goal.

In fact, 15 of his 24 games in charge of the nation have finished with less than 2.5 goals being scored, including all of his last three falling that way.

The trend becomes even stronger at the Aviva Stadium, where each of the last seven internationals have fallen short of the 2.5-goal mark.

Against a Slovakian outfit that drew 0-0 at home to Latvia on Friday, backing the 8/15 about another match containing less than three goals is a smart play.

Although Long is the only option up front, O’Neill has already stated he will be making changes elsewhere in his XI, with Newcastle’s Rob Elliot certain to replace Darren Randolph in goal and James McClean also tipped to enter the fray.

The striker shortage almost guarantees a switch back to the familiar 4-3-2-1 system used during qualifying and a return for Stoke’s Glenn Whelan in central midfield too.

Ireland are favourites to pick up their second victory of the week, at a price of 6/5, while the visitors are handed odds of 12/5 by Ladbrokes. The draw can be backed at 21/10.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.