Doherty boosts Irish hopes

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REPUBLIC OF IRELAND ignited their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign as Gary Doherty's late goal secured a vital win in Georgia.

The Tottenham Hotspur man netted with just six minutes remaining to hand Brian Kerr a precious three points in his first competitive game at the Irish helm.

Ireland travelled to Georgia having failed to rack up any points in their opening two games in Group Ten and they could ill-afford another slip-up in the Lokomotiv Stadium.

The visitors were given the perfect platform after 18 minutes when Damien Duff pounced on a loose ball.

Kevin Kilbane's cross was powered goalwards by Lee Carsley but the ball rebounded off the post and fell kindly for Blackburn Rovers winger Duff to nudge home.

Despite missing a trio of key players, Georgia battled bravely against the Irish and were level on the hour mark when Levan Kobiaschwili scored from a free-kick.

With Ireland seemingly heading for a stalemate, Doherty headed into the back of the net after Matt Holland had nodded the ball back across the box.

In the other Group 10 match, Albania pulled to within two points of second place Russia with a surprise 3-1 home victory in Shkoder.

Altin Rraklli gave the home side a 1-0 half-time lead before Russia equalised in the second half through Andrei Karyaka with 13 minutes to go.

However, three minutes after the visitors pulled level, Hannover's Altin Lala restored Albania's lead and Brescia's Igli Tare secured the three points four minutes after that, to delight the crowd at the Loro Borici Stadium.       

Click below for an individual match summary:
Albania 3-1 Russia
Georgia 1-2 Republic of Ireland

Click here for Group Ten table