Michael O’Neill refused to throw the book at his Stoke City players after seeing a lead disappear in the second half fog against Nottingham Forest.
Stoke looked good value for a win that would have taken them into the Championship play-off zone when they went off at half-time 1-0 up thanks to a bizarre goal credited to Jordan Thompson, whose corner was turned in by keeper Brice Samba.
But relegation-battling Forest pegged them back with a James Chester own goal and Joe Bursik needed to make a flying one-on-one save to stop Cafu to keep the scores level.
O’Neill said: “I thought first half we played very well and had a lot of control of the game. Second half it was a bit of a lottery really with the conditions. There’s no doubt Forest had the better of the second half, we handed them opportunities and I think that was down to our own poor decisions.
“In defence of the players, the conditions were very, very difficult and probably in the end a draw was a fair result.”
He added: “It was a great save in the end from Joe. John (Obi Mikel) plays a pass blind, he doesn’t see the Forest player there which is understandable. It’s very difficult. I’ve watched it back on video and it’s very difficult with the colour of their shirts as well to see. It was very, very difficult for the players.
“We gave them three or four opportunities due to bad decisions at that point of the game. We lost a wee bit of belief although we had a couple of chances to win it ourselves later on too.”
He added: “I thought first half, we were deservedly in front. The goal was obviously a little bit fortunate but we played well and then I thought possibly the substitutions upset our rhythm a bit.
“But we’re in a situation when we are trying to get players back. In an ideal situation we would never take Joe Allen off like that but it would be unrealistic to ask Joe to play 90 minutes at this minute in time.
“On top of that, we’re trying to get John Obi Mikel and Sam Clucas back into the team.
“Maybe the substitutions were a factor in why we lost a little bit of initiative but we have to try to get the squad as strong possible and get minutes back into these players who are coming back from injury.”
Steven Fletcher, whose knee has flared up, and Josh Tymon (groin) added to Stoke’s injury problems.
O’Neill said: “We’ve always lost players. Even today Josh Tymon was out too. We’re in a situation where it is very difficult for us to play a back four at this minute in time so we have to persevere with the system a little bit.
“Then we lost Fletch with his knee although hopefully he comes into contention for Saturday.”
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Chris Hughton rued the opener but thought Forest should have been taking three points back across the Midlands.
“It was a game we should have won,” he said. “After conceding a really poor goal in the first half we saw a really good reaction. It took a while but once we got the equaliser there was only one team that was going to win it – against a really good side, who had chances as well.
“We should have won it in the end. Cafu had the best chance of the lot.
“When you come here and go 1-0 down it’s about getting back in the game. The reaction once we got the equaliser was to try to get the winner but we’re finding it very difficult to get three points at the moment.”