Balbriggan’s Diane Caldwell admitted Ireland need to improve ahead of next month’s Euro 2021 qualifier with Ukraine following an unconvincing 2-0 win over Montenegro in Tallaght.

Goals in either half from Tyler Toland and captain Katie McCabe saw the home side to victory but it was far less comfortable than either the team or interim coach Tom O’Connor would have liked.

The FAI unveiled former Netherlands and Scotland coach Vera Pauw as the successor to Colin Bell, who resigned in July, on Wednesday and she will be in place for the Ukraine game.

Pauw will have five weeks to prepare for the visit of the second seeds and she will have plenty to work on going by this early-season run-out against a side that lost 10-0 to Germany last week.

Ireland got off to the dream start after just seven minutes when Tyler Toland, who recently signed for Manchester City, netted her first international goal.

Incisive passing forced the Montenegrin defence to sit deep and Toland took full advantage, aiming a low shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the box.

That should have been the cue for Ireland to put an end to the tie early on. But the visitors dug in and Ireland struggled to create more chances.

The best fell to Louise Quinn on the stroke of half time as Montenegro goalkeeper Ivan Cabarkapa punched McCabe’s corner up in the air but the defender couldn’t turn the loose ball home.

Toland should have doubled her tally within three minutes of the restart following great work on the right by half-time sub Heather Payne, but she blazed over from 12 yards.

McCabe finally put the game to bed 20 minutes from time as Jadranka Pavicevic slapped the ball down in the box and the Arsenal winger sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot.

The captain could have made it three late on as she met Rianna Jarrett’s low cross at the near post. She couldn’t wrap her foot around the ball, and Ireland had to settle for 2-0.
“It maybe looks easier than it is, but they really condensed the space and made it hard to play through,” Caldwell told the Dublin Gazette.

“We had to choose the right moments to penetrate and it was hard work. It wasn’t so easy, as you can see from the scoreline.”

Caldwell, who played underage with Clonard Celtic and Balbriggan FC, and is about to embark on her fourth season with Bundesliga side SC Sand, looked to take the positives from the performance.

“We would have hoped for more goals, but the ultimate aim was the win, the three points and the clean sheet, so we have to be happy with that, but we know there’s a lot we have to work on still.

“They made it difficult for us with their low block and got numbers around the ball and pressurised us very quickly.”