Belfast Telegraph

Evergreen Carroll hopes to be spot on for Euro start

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's penalty king Roy Carroll is hoping his heroics in the 1-0 victory over Slovenia at Windsor Park will edge him closer to a starting spot at the Euro 2016 finals.

The 38-year-old was in superb form on Monday night, making a fine second-half penalty save from Milivoje Novakovic, helping to stretch the nation's unbeaten run to a record 10 games.

Carroll has been behind Hamilton's Michael McGovern in the pecking order for the goalkeeper's spot since last June, but his performance at Windsor showed that manager Michael O'Neill could rely on both Fermanagh men come the Euro 2016 finals.

On the competition between himself and McGovern, Carroll stated: "There's good competition between us and Alan Mannus too. We have three goalkeepers and it is very hard because you only have that one position to fight for. After games we talk about how things went and work hard together in training.

"We are good friends and will support whoever gets the nod, but when we are in France we will all want to play so when you get the chance to impress in the build-up games you have to try and take it."

Carroll certainly did that. At the final whistle on Monday, the fans were roaring his name all around Windsor Park.

"You can see how much the fans are enjoying this time for Northern Ireland football," stated Notts County's Carroll, who won his 43rd cap versus Slovenia.

"The atmosphere was brilliant again and it was nice to keep a clean sheet for the lads and help to break the record and go 10 games unbeaten. We want to keep our winning mentality going all the way to the Euros."

Carroll has now saved the last two penalties he has faced at Windsor, having stopped a Faroe Islands spot-kick early on in the successful Euro qualifying campaign.

He said: "Regarding the spot-kick against Slovenia we practiced penalties after the 1-1 draw with Wales last week and watched videos. I noticed who was taking it and in the past he always seemed to go down the right side, so I took a gamble and went to my right and thankfully pulled off the save."

There was another excellent stop in the dying moments to prevent Valter Birsa from equalising.

"I actually liked that one better than the penalty. It was a hard shot down to my left and I got down quickly to turn it away," said the former Manchester United man.

Carroll admits thoughts of Euro 2016 and international duty will be put to the back of his mind for the next couple of months while he focuses on reclaiming his place in the Notts County team, now led by new boss Mark Cooper, with the aim to move up from 19th position in League Two.

"It's been a very tough season. Our fans come every week and watch League Two football. The club should not be in League Two. It is a big club and hopefully we can get ourselves sorted out sooner rather than later and push up the table," said Carroll.

"With the international break over I'll go back to Notts County and train hard and try to get back in the team. I've been out of the side for the last four or five games and want to play as much as possible."

Belfast Telegraph