NORTHERN Ireland were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw by Bulgaria in their latest World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night.
The home side dominated possession and chances in the game at Windsor Park.
The result leaves Northern Ireland with one point from two games in Group C with manager Ian Baraclough still awaiting his first win in 90 minutes in his 11 games in charge.
The visitors almost stole a win at the end but Bailey Peacock-Farrell produced a superb save from Dimitar Iliev.
The night began with captain Steven Davis winning the 126th cap for his side - a record for a British player.
Northern Ireland began well and the first chance of the game fell to Josh Magennis who could only head straight into the arms of Naumov in the Bulgarian goal.
The home side came close soon after as Stuart Dallas’ header was headed onto the bar following a well dug-out cross from Magennis.
The Bulgarians threatened for the first time on the half-hour mark following a mix-up between Peacock-Farrell and Cathcart from a free-kick into box but the ball was headed onto roof of net.
Northern Ireland came out strongly in the second half as Gavin Whyte’s shot was pushed away by Naumov.
On 73 minutes, substitute Niall McGinn was unlucky as he swivelled on the edge of the box only to see his shot fizz wide.
Northern Ireland brought on Kyle Lafferty who almost made his height advantage count but he could not get any meaningful contact on a dangerous cross from Kennedy before McGinn was denied by a last-ditch block soon after.
It was the Bulgarians who almost won it at the death from their first corner of the game but a sensational save from Peacock-Farrell denied Dimitar Iliev.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough said he could not fault the players’ efforts.
“It is a disappointing result but I can’t fault the lads’ effort. I thought they tried to create a tempo and press on the opposition,” he said.
“We had efforts on goal and crosses into the box but that finishing touch wasn’t there.
“It’s not falling for us at the moment. Whether they are just snatching at things and when they go back to their clubs, they will be hitting the back of the net.
“We were lacking that bit of cuteness around the box.
“I said to my staff, if there was 18,500 fans in the stadium tonight, we win that game. The crowd suck the ball into the back of the net and puts the opposition on the backfoot as well but these are the times we are in.”
Praising Peacock-Farrell for his late heroics, Baraclough added: “That is why he is in the goals.
“He has had to concentrate for 88 minutes with nothing to do and he produced a save like that. We could have been talking about a different result.”
Northern Ireland’s next qualifier is against Lithuania in September.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Peacock-Farrell, Ballard (Smith), J Evans, Cathcart, Lewis, McNair, Davis, Dallas, Saville (Kennedy), Whyte (McGinn), Magennis (Lafferty)
BULGARIA: Naumov, A.Hristov, Antov, Chochev, P.Hristov, Despodov, Kostadinov (Vitanov), Vutov (D Iliev), Tsvetanov (Zanev), Yomov (Karagaren), Galabinov (A Iliev)