Belfast Telegraph

Nigel Worthington's praise for Northern Ireland's young guns

By Ken Gaunt

Nigel Worthington revealed immense pride in his young guns after two men making competitive international debuts combined to give Northern Ireland a winning start to their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Craig Cathcart — only drafted in to make make his debut when Jonny Evans was ruled out a few hours before kick-off with a groin injury — was actually playing a senior international for the first time and marked his bow with the cross for the younger Evans brother, Corry, to score the winner on 70 minutes which left World Cup qualifiers Slovenia stunned.

It is the first time in a decade that Northern Ireland have started a qualifying campaign with a win and only the second competitive away victory of Worthington’s reign — the other coming in San Marino.

“We worked all week with Jonny as a left-back,” said Worthington.

“I was disappointed to lose him, but you cannot take your thoughts away from everyone else.

“I’m delighted with Craig Cathcart. He had an excellent debut. It is not his best position, but he did a good solid job, stuck to it and great credit to him.

“We defended magnificently in the second-half, we rode the storm and got the goal to win the game.

“When you play for Northern Ireland you have to work very hard and our players were fantastic, very solid.

“We stuck to our game plan and it worked,” added the delighted manager.

“Overall our performance was superb. The players deserve all the credit because they worked hard all week and stuck to the game-plan.

“It gives us a nice start to the campaign and now we'll look forward to meeting up for the Italy game at Windsor Park next month.”

Corry Evans was only on the pitch a couple of minutes, when he diverted Cathcart’s cross into the net with his first touch.

“Whatever big brother can do little brother can do as well,” said Worthington.

“What a family that is. Young Corry is a fantastic young professional. I have no fears about Corry. He showed what he can do and not just with his goal.

“He has a lot of ability and is a very honest young man. I had no qualms about putting him on and the goal was a nice little surprise.”

Corry, who like Jonny is at Manchester United, but has yet to make his first-team debut, said: “I haven't scored for Northern Ireland since I was a schoolboy, so to get on the scoresheet in such an important match is fantastic.

“We've had our criticism over our away from and for not being able to score goals, so to win away with a clean sheet is great.”

Northern Ireland’s next game is against group favourites Italy at Windsor Park next month.

Evans added: “We'll give it our best at Windsor Park and see what happens.”

Goalkeeper Maik Taylor is celebrating his 39th birthday today and has plenty of reason to celebrate after a clean sheet.

“The boys put their bodies on the line and worked extremely hard,” he said. “Our preparation was fantastic in the week and we had plenty of confidence — but the boys dug in. I am up early in the morning so I'll limit it to a couple and have a proper celebration tomorrow night.”

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