Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

McGinn sets goal for Northern Ireland v Russia

Niall McGinn scored his first international goal away to Portugal in October
Niall McGinn scored his first international goal away to Portugal in October

Niall McGinn has been scoring at just about every stadium he has played in this season and now his goal is to strike for the first time at Windsor Park against Russia in tonight's World Cup qualifier.

In the form of his life, the 25-year-old Aberdeen ace could be a key performer if Michael O'Neill's men are to shock Fabio Capello's table topping side in the Group F encounter.

McGinn has turned from a winger creating goals to a striker scoring them under former Scotland boss Craig Brown. He has netted 16 times in the SPL, which is almost half of Aberdeen's tally.

The Tyrone man has also scored once for Northern Ireland this term, famously finishing a fantastic move with aplomb when O'Neill's men took the lead in Portugal.

It looked as though McGinn's goal would prove to be a stunning winner until the late Portuguese equaliser in the October World Cup qualifier.

Having broken his duck at international level, the ex-Celtic star is keen to double his tally against Capello's team, who have won their opening four group games.

"Scoring in Portugal was fantastic. Now that I have my first international goal I'm at a stage where I want to push on and score more," said McGinn, who has won 21 caps.

"I'd love to score my first at Windsor Park in front of the home crowd against Russia.

"I've had a great season personally and am really enjoying my football. I'm loving life right now.

"On Friday it could be a similar sort of game to the one that we played in Portugal. We proved then that we could be dangerous on the break and hopefully it will be the same this time.

"We've been working on that in training with the aim that everything will come right on the night."

The smart money is on in form Walsall hitman Will Grigg playing through the middle in attack, though along with Andrew Little from Rangers he is an injury doubt, which could free up the central striking role for McGinn.

You get the feeling he wouldn't need to be asked twice.

"I have spoken to Michael about playing through the middle and he has watched me a lot for my club this season, but he knows that if I have to do a job for the team I'll do it," adds McGinn who started his career at Dungannon Swifts before transferring to Derry City.

"It's the manager's decision but as long as I'm playing I'm happy whether that is through the middle or on the right or left.

"With the standard of the opposition on Friday we may not go with two strikers – we may just go with one through the middle."

When most players leave Celtic anywhere else in Scotland is a step down, but for McGinn joining Aberdeen in the summer was the right call.

He says: "It was good for me to leave Celtic because I have got a new lease of life at Aberdeen and I've been thankful that Craig Brown has used me as a striker because it has really worked out."

Like many of O'Neill's squad, all is going well for McGinn (pictured below) at club level but he wants some international success to go along with it.

He is mystified that Northern Ireland have not won any of their last 12 games, saying that "a bit of luck" is required to end the run.

Asked if the game with Russia could turn out to be one of those great Windsor nights against giants of European football, he says: "We are definitely thinking along those lines.

"Training is going well and all the boys are buzzing and ready to play.

"I think Michael has got us playing the right way.

"We are trying to retain possession, create chances and work on things that will take us forward.

"Since the defeat in Russia at the start of the campaign I think there have been a lot of positives.

"I didn't play in the first game against Russia when we lost 2-0 but along with everyone else I've been watching videos and you can see they are a good side with some very gifted players technically.

"They are going to have a lot of the ball and it might be up to us to catch them on the counter attack."

As McGinn illustrated with his superb strike in Portugal, that might suit him just fine.

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