Enda Stevens admits it took some encouragement from Ireland manager Mick McCarthy to make them appreciate staying top of their Euro qualifying group.
An own-goal by Joseph Chipolina on the half hour and Robbie Brady’s late header sealed a 2-0 victory over minnows Gibraltar at Lansdowne Road.
Fans arriving at the Dublin 4 venue expecting a goalrush were disappointed as Ireland’s lack of cutting edge in the final third cost them.
Stevens, playing his fourth successive game for McCarthy at left-back, confessed that he wanted the winning margin to be greater, though his manager was swift not to allow any lingering regrets.
“At the end of the match, the manager walked into our dressing-room that was a bit flat,” explained the Sheffield United defender.
Mick said ‘what are you flat for? You have 10 points and are top of your qualifying group.
“As he said himself, 10 points was his aim at this stage when he looked at the fixtures so he just said go and enjoy the summer. “
Stevens said it was difficult to break down a team prepared to put all 10 men behind the ball and rely on a counterattack. The match marked a sharp contrast to Friday night in Denmark when Ireland were the side being chased.
“It was a weird game,” he said. “You go from one extreme to the other because we played Denmark a few days ago, so you are just getting you head around it.
“We worked on pressing the life out of Gibraltar and we only improved in the second-half. They were just playing percentage football so Mick told us at half-time to get on the ball more.
“It was about getting further up the pitch to force mistakes. We’re top of the table but still growing and learning as a team.
“We’ll only get better. It’s been a long season for a lot of players, so we’ll stretch the legs out and look forward to September when we play Switzerland here in Dublin.”
Ireland’s striker quartet remain without a goal after David McGoldrick saw his effort against Gibraltar chalked off an own-goal.
His 29th minute snapshot, veering wide, struck Joseph Chipolina before diverting into the net.
Along with Callum Robinson, Scott Hogan and Sean Maguire, McGoldrick has yet to get off the mark.
All striker are judged on goals and I wanted to get one in this game,” he told Sky Sports afterwards.
“I’m getting chances and they are just not going my way, but I have to keep going. I’d love to stand here with a goal for Ireland on my CV, but it wasn’t to be.
“The three points is the main thing. Everyone expected us to get a load of goals. I should have scored, but the main thing is 10 points from four games.”