Belfast Telegraph

Liam and Josh can take us forward to Russia, says Northern Ireland winger Dallas

By Adam McKendry

Northern Ireland midfielder Stuart Dallas was full of praise for the forward pairing of Liam Boyce and Josh Magennis after their 1-0 friendly win over New Zealand on Friday.

Boyce's sixth minute finish, his first for his country, settled the game against the southern hemisphere outfit, as Michael O'Neill's side prepare for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku.

Boyce in particular has been in outstanding form, netting 23 league goals for club Ross County and continuing that form in the green of Northern Ireland.

County now face a fight to hold onto the finisher with English and Scottish clubs looking on with interest.

Winger Dallas thinks that, if he's called upon, Boyce would be ready to lead the line against Azerbaijan on Saturday as Northern Ireland attempt to solidify their hold on second place in the group.

"I think he has shown that he is ready when called upon. His finish against New Zealand was superb," said Dallas.

"I'm delighted for Liam. He has had a great season at club level and has continued that by scoring against New Zealand. He is a great lad, works hard and he is getting his rewards now.

"It's also nice to see another ex-Irish League player coming in and doing well."

The former Crusaders man was also full of praise for Boyce's strike partner Magennis, who worked tirelessly against New Zealand and did just about everything except score in a big performance. He was also complimentary of the replacements as well, with Kyle Lafferty and Shay McCartan coming off the bench and looking lively, the latter in his international debut.

"I thought Josh put in another great performance on Friday and big Laff does what he does when he came on," Dallas said.

"Also when Shay came off the bench he was lively so things are looking positive up front.

"Friday's win puts us in great spirits going into the game with Azerbaijan."

It's a big game for the squad, who sit second in qualifying Group C, two points ahead of the Czech Republic and three ahead of Saturday's opponents.

A win would put O'Neill's men in the driving seat going into the final stages of the qualification process, with a great chance of forcing a play-off for their second consecutive major tournament.

Dallas added: "It's going to be tough out there in the heat.

"Being in Turkey to prepare though will give us the best possible opportunity to win the game. We may have won 4-0 against them at Windsor Park earlier in the campaign but it certainly won't be easy. They are going to be tough to beat over there, but then so will we and we have belief.

"We are going out there looking to get three big points."

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