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steps forward Stephen Kenny gives his verdict on Ireland's draw with Serbia

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Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was both hero and villain for Serbia as the Republic of Ireland struck late once again to snatch a World Cup qualifying draw.

On a night when the visitors, marshalled by the brilliant Dusan Tadic, were quicker in thought and deed for long periods, Milinkovic-Savic, who had earlier headed his side in front, thumped an attempted 86th-minute clearance straight at team-mate Nikola Milenkovic and saw it end up in the back of his own net to ensure the game ended 1-1.

Ireland’s qualification hopes, which were hanging by a thread before kick-off, look no more realistic with Group A leaders Portugal 11 points better off and Serbia nine clear with just three games to play – but for manager Stephen Kenny, there was at least a measure of respite after Saturday’s disappointing home draw with Azerbaijan.

Ireland manager Kenny was delighted with the way his players battled to the end against a side he believes have improved since they last met in March.

He told Sky Sports: “Serbia were excellent. I’m so impressed with them. They were really, really good – they’ve improved since we played them last.

“We pushed them all the way in Serbia, 3-2, in what was an even match, but they were excellent tonight.

“But our players, even though it was our third game in six days, showed tremendous spirit, played a lot of good football and got a break that we didn’t get earlier in the week, when we could have had four points at least, six, coming into this game.

“We actually lost in the 97th minute against Portugal, so I thought the players just gave everything tonight – as they did in all the games. They’ve given everything of themselves.”

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Fans' banner pledges support for Ireland manager Stephen Kenny at the Aviva Stadium last night. Photo: Reuters

Fans' banner pledges support for Ireland manager Stephen Kenny at the Aviva Stadium last night. Photo: Reuters

Fans' banner pledges support for Ireland manager Stephen Kenny at the Aviva Stadium last night. Photo: Reuters

Asked if the draw would quieten some of the noise around his position, Kenny added on Sky Sports: “We’ve only had one defeat in six games, and that was a 97-minute game against Portugal.

“If we hang on against Portugal the other day, that’s six unbeaten. We just need to turn the draws into wins, we’ve had too many draws.

“We’ve blooded 13 players in six months, made their debuts. It was always going to be an upward curve with that, and a lot of them we’ll see the benefit of that now over the next year.

“You’ve seen players who people had never heard of come in, and they know about some of them now. And there’s some more to come as well.”

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