THE pressures of a play-off game are nothing new to Darren Randolph, but when the Middlesbrough goalkeeper lines up for the Republic of Ireland in Denmark on Saturday night, he should have one major advantage over the last time he played for his country with a place at a major tournament at stake. No matter what else happens in Copenhagen, at least he should be able to see the opposition.

Two years ago, Randolph was part of the Irish team that headed to Bosnia for the first leg of their Euro 2016 play-off decider. The game in Zenica’s Bilino Polje Stadium finished in a 1-1 draw, paving the way for Ireland’s 2-0 triumph in the second leg in Dublin, but the match was most notable for the thick fog that descended during the second half, almost forcing an abandonment.

There were times as Randolph patrolled his penalty area when he could barely make out the halfway line, so while Saturday’s game against a Denmark side that could feature Boro attacker Martin Braithwaite will be a stern test with a World Cup place at stake, it will not present the kind of problems the goalkeeper was forced to overcome in 2015.

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“I could only see up to the halfway line,” said Randolph, who has been one of Middlesbrough’s most consistent performers since moving from West Ham in the summer. “There’s a picture of me and Seamus Coleman and there is only the two of us in it because you can’t see beyond the halfway line.

“So whenever the ball did break free and they were attacking, I was just seeing players coming through the fog. But that stage the ball would already be over the halfway line. Even with the replays of the goal (by Robbie Brady), with the camera angle you still couldn’t see it properly.

“I’d never experienced it before, so you just had to deal with it and thankfully there was no ball over the top that someone had to chase and I had to get to. I had enough time to see everything as it was happening.”

Whereas Ireland had to contend with difficult conditions in Bosnia, Saturday’s main test will be posed by the Danish players at the opposite end of the pitch.

Denmark finished ahead of Montenegro and Romania to finish as runners-up to Poland in Group E of the qualifying programme, and should boast Premier League trio Kasper Schmeichel, Andreas Christensen and Christian Eriksen in their starting line-up this weekend as well as ex-Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner and highly-rated Sevilla centre-half Simon Kjaer.

They start the two-legged game as marginal favourites, but the draw has been kind to Ireland with next Tuesday’s second leg taking place in Dublin. And while Denmark merit respect, they are arguably weaker than the other top seeds, Italy, Croatia and Switzerland.

“I think Denmark was probably the one everyone wanted, when you look at the teams that were in the draw,” said Randolph. “But maybe they were the same, maybe they wanted us instead of anyone else too.”

Whereas some of his Irish team-mates are struggling for form, Randolph heads into Saturday’s game on the back of a string of impressive displays in a Boro shirt.

He made a fine double-stop to deny first Didier Ndong and then Lewis Grabban in Sunday’s Tees-Wear derby win over Sunderland, and was a pivotal performer in last month’s win in Cardiff that secured Ireland’s play-off place.

By beating Wales in a winner-takes-all encounter, Ireland’s players proved they were capable of producing their best under intense pressure. The final whistle in the Cardiff City Stadium resulted in joyous scenes in the away end, but Randolph accepts he and his team-mates now have to ensure they were not premature.

“People were saying congratulations (after Cardiff), but it’s the play-offs, we haven’t actually got to the World Cup yet,” he said. “There wasn’t much point in celebrating after that game.”