Lafferty happy to be bright spark on dark Windsor night
In what was a thoroughly depressing night for Northern Ireland, young Burnley full-back Daniel Lafferty was a rare bright spark at a sodden Windsor Park.
Lafferty was a surprise inclusion in Michael O'Neill's starting line-up.
The 23 year-old earned his first competitive cap after regular left-back Ryan McGivern picked up an injury in training on Monday.
Even then O'Neill could have played Shane Ferguson at left-back and Chris Brunt on the left-wing but Lafferty got the nod.
The Celtic youth product was delighted to get his opportunity on the big stage, even though his side could only claim a 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan.
Lafferty said: “It was great to get the opportunity to start a competitive match and a fantastic experience.
“From a personal perspective it was great to put in a good solid performance, but on a team level the result was very disappointing. We created so many chances that we could have won by five or six goals, but we failed to trouble their keeper.”
After a slightly nervy start, Lafferty linked up well with fellow Derry native Shane Ferguson on the left flank. The two inexperienced internationals caused Azerbaijan no end of problems, consistently providing quality deliveries for their team-mates to squander. Lafferty could have even won a penalty mid-way through the second half, but the honest defender elected to stay on his feet rather than go down under the challenge of substitute Guseynov.
Unfortunately Lafferty missed a great chance of his own. As half-time approached Ferguson flighted in a marvellous left-wing cross, only for the rampaging full-back to miss the target with his head from eight yards.
The former Derry City man was brave enough to admit he was embarrassed by the miss.
“I was scundered by it, to be honest. It was harder to miss than it was to score. It was a superb ball in from Shane and I know I should have done better. We had four or five other great headed chances but we failed to take any of them. It was particularly frustrating as we didn't work the keeper the way we wanted to. We got the ball into the box on numerous occasions, but we didn't take advantage of it.”
Lafferty can take solace from the fact he wasn't alone. Northern Ireland strikers missed the target on 12 occasions.
Despite what the result might suggest, Lafferty believes that Northern Ireland were unlucky not to claim all three points.
“As a team, I actually think we played well,” he added. “We worked our socks off, created chances and bossed possession. Unfortunately we missed too many headed chances, myself included.”
Another former Derry City player, Niall McGinn, shared Lafferty's sentiments. The Aberdeen forward said: “Although the result wasn't what we were looking for, I thought the performance from the first minute to the last was very pleasing.
“We had a lot of possession and we created a lot of chances, but we are disappointed we didn't make more of the chances we created.”