Belfast Telegraph

Billy Hamilton: Kyle Lafferty will take out his frustration on Ukraine

By Billy Hamillton

I think a lot of people have been too harsh in their criticism of Northern Ireland's performance in the Poland game - Kyle Lafferty included.

I think we must be careful not to get carried away with hype and expectation levels.

We are in a tough group and Michael (O'Neill) set out to get a draw against the Poles and almost succeeded.

Kyle's reaction after the game was understandable as he was feeling disappointed and frustrated, but I don't think the team was overawed by the occasion.

Now that match is out of their system I expect a much better performance against Ukraine tonight and that's crucial as it's a must-win battle.

I think the players, who have been hurting since the opening defeat, will leave everything on the pitch and really go for it this time.

We shouldn't look back in anger.

One lapse of concentration cost us when the ball went through Craig Cathcart's legs and Arkadiusz Milik finished it off but I was delighted with the way Michael tried to change things and introducing Conor Washington and Stuart Dallas gave us a lift.

I think that tactically Michael got it right and I would exonerate him from any blame.

The reality is that Poland are a top quality team and they managed to get the breakthrough when we switched off for a split second.

But the way we kept Robert Lewandowski quiet was impressive and it will be interesting to see how other teams cope with him.

Jonny Evans did a great job on him and it could prove to be his quietest game of the tournament.

Unfortunately, when you are competing at this level you could be punished for making one small mistake and that's what happened.

But of course there is much room for improvement.

I think our Achilles heel is the left-back position.

Michael will need to look at that and give consideration to giving Kyle the support in attack he needs.

I know there is demand for more help for Kyle but we shouldn't forget that we were successful throughout the qualifying campaign with the big man operating up front, mostly on his own.

For this do or die game against Ukraine I believe Stuart Dallas should start because he offers a lot going forward and we need to create something.

Secondly, we need to be much more accurate with our set-pieces.

They have not been up to standard so far and that is disappointing.

Thirdly, and I'm sure Michael has been working on this in training, we need to start holding the ball up better in front and carry more threat in attack.

Even if we draw this second game we would need to beat world champions Germany and while that is not beyond the realms of possibility, it would be a huge task.

I watched Ukraine against Germany and it left me a bit worried as they asked a few questions of them and perhaps people were wrong to single out Ukraine as being the weak link in the group.

If anyone thought they would be pushovers, they will think again.

I thought Ukraine looked dangerous going forward.

I really like the look of midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko and he could be the man who causes us serious problems. He's a class act.

But our European Championship campaign hinges on this result but I'm confident the boys will deliver.

Iceland and their superb supporters lit up the tournament with a magnificent performance against Portugal on Tuesday night and hopefully we can come to the party tonight.

Belfast Telegraph