Cathcart vows to learn lessons

  • Last Updated: September 8 2012, 13:21 BST

Northern Ireland defender Craig Cathcart accepts he has plenty to learn about international football after being on the wrong end of a harsh penalty decision against Russia.

Craig Cathcart: Gave away a penalty

Michael O'Neill's side were trailing their first World Cup qualifier of a new campaign 1-0 after 78 minutes - a respectable scoreline on one of European football's most testing away days.

And the prospect of an unlikely draw was still alive until the referee awarded the hosts a spot-kick after Alexander Kokorin went to ground despite minimal contact from Cathcart.

The Blackpool defender would not expect to be penalised in such circumstances on club duty but, despite being aggrieved at the official's verdict, he has vowed not to get caught out again.

"The penalty was obviously very disappointing as we were very much in the game and had a few chances ourselves," he said after the 2-0 loss.

"If it wasn't for the penalty we could have pushed forward and maybe forced an equaliser but that penalty hit us hard.

"I think the general consensus of the decision was that it was harsh. That's what the manager said.

"I think if this was a Championship game then that would never have been a penalty. It would have been a case of 'play on'.

"But it's a different style of football and we knew that coming into the game. Players in international football seem to go down a lot easier.

"I've got to learn from that. That's the thing with international football. You are always trying to improve and I will learn from this decision."

O'Neill, taking charge of the national side for the first time in a competitive match, was less restrained than Cathcart and made his displeasure plain.

"I was very surprised by the decision. My initial reaction was that the referee had booked the striker for a theatrical fall," he said.

"There looked to no contact whatsoever for the penalty but the pitch was very bad so maybe he lost his footing because of that. I felt at 1-0 we were well in the game and that the penalty - a very soft penalty - killed the game for us.

"The referee was very fussy towards us throughout the night."

O'Neill must quickly rally his troops for Tuesday's home clash against Luxembourg - a team they will be expecting to beat at Windsor Park.

The usual fitness checks will be taken once the side return to Belfast, with all eyes on key defender Jonny Evans.

The Manchester United man had ankle surgery in the summer, has had a limited pre-season and looked in pain at times as he battled a knock in the second half.

United will be keen observers regarding their player's fitness but O'Neill, who was buoyed by Evans' commitment to the cause, is hopeful he will be fit.

"We examined Jonny thoroughly at half-time," he said.

"I thought he showed magnificent character to play the 90 minutes and we think he'll be okay for Tuesday. It was just a knock.

"Right through the team there were some big, big performances but Jonny's performance with the knock typified the spirit we are hopefully building in this group of players.

"That will be very important for us going forward."