Northern Ireland desperately need a goalscorer to emerge from the shadows as the Euro 2012 qualifiers edge closer, but manager Nigel Worthington says his strikers can do the business.
No goals in six games is not a healthy statistic ahead of a tough Euro 2012 qualifying campaign against opponents of the calibre of Italy, Serbia and Slovenia and David Healy’s shot-shy spell has damaged confidence.
However, Worthington feels there is sufficient firepower in the squad to enable his side to shoot down Montenegro in Podgorica tonight and then their Euro rivals, starting with a trip to Slovenia next month.
“Kyle Lafferty is young and still learning his trade,” said boss Worthington.
“He has good experience at a very young age.
“David Healy has been there, seen it and done it and needs to get back to doing it.
“There's Warren Feeney, who’s been there, seen it and done it as well. He had a tough year last year with injury and not playing. So hopefully he is moving forward.
“Rory Patterson has got a move into full-time football with Plymouth Argyle, which will be good for him.
“Martin Paterson we can use on the right and up front. So maybe a year ago we were looking at two or three strikers, but all of a sudden we’re looking at four or five, which is good.”
However, Worthington fired another warning shot across the bow of talisman Healy, telling him to start playing first team football or give up his international place.
“It is straightforward with David,” he added.
“He needs to play football. I have said that all along. It is not just about David, it’s about other players.
“David has not played enough first-team football. He's had 12 starts in two years.
“For a pro footballer to have that amount of starts and be trying to do it at the very top level either Premier League or international, is a tough ask.”
Worthington also explained why he gave Stephen Craigan the captain’s armband even though Maik Taylor is back in the squad and will start in goal.
“Stephen is heading towards his 50th cap and with Aaron Hughes not being here it is nice to share it around,” added the former Norwich City supremo.
“Stephen has been the captain in the last two games and did very well in the role.
“I spoke to Maik Taylor and he had no issues with it at all.”
Taylor will start in goal behind a back four of Ryan McGivern, Jonny Evans, Craigan and Andy Little. Chris Baird will sit in front of the defence with Sammy Clingan and Steven Davis in the centre and possibly Paterson on the right with Chris Brunt on the left wing. Lafferty could play the role of lone frontman.
“I have got the team in my head, I have the shape in my head,” added Worthington.
“Depending on where you are coming from it can be a 4-1-4-1 at times. It can be a 4-3-3 at times. It can be a 4-5-1 at times.”
Worthington also sent a get well message to Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni who was taken to hospital with food poisoning before the Argentina game.
“We wish him a speedy recovery and he has my sympathy as the timing of the illness could not be worse,” said Worthington.