Belfast Telegraph

No fear factor as Northern Ireland's Grant McCann plots revenge on Slovenia

By Graham Luney

Grant McCann has sent a defiant message to Slovenia — “you don’t scare us.”

Northern Ireland got the better of Slovenia at Windsor Park when Warren Feeney scored the only goal of the game in April last year, but it was a very different story in the first showdown when Nigel Worthington’s troops left Maribor on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline in October 2008.

Two goals in the last 10 minutes left the visitors on the canvas with their qualifying hopes effectively destroyed.

One point from three World Cup qualifiers — no-one could find the net against the Czech Republic at Windsor Park — made depressing reading and though Worthington’s men rallied later in the campaign the damage had been done.

Fast forward to Friday night and Northern Ireland will be hungry for revenge in a familiar, but hostile environment.

It will be a daunting test against a Slovenia side that is brimming with confidence after progressing to the World Cup finals.

The hosts will be desperate for a return to the big time, but McCann knows a win could be priceless as Northern Ireland bid to banish their major tournament blues.

“We’ve nothing to fear. We have beaten them at Windsor Park when Warren Feeney scored the winner and I prefer to think about that game and concentrate on repeating that performance,” said McCann.

“We need to take the Windsor Park mentality on our travels and refuse to be intimidated or scared by these teams.

“I watched them in the World Cup and they played well, but perhaps we can surprise them and catch them cold.

“They were unlucky not to qualify from their group in South Africa, but they were sloppy on occasions and we are capable of hurting them.”

Northern Ireland are notoriously slow starters in campaigns and while McCann admits a defeat would “not be a catastrophe,” he acknowledges a win would give the players a spring in their step ahead of a showdown with Italy at Windsor Park.

“We know we can win our home games so there is no need to panic if we lose, but you want to win and generate a bit of momentum,” said the 30-year-old.

“There is no point saying we’d be happy with a draw because if you have that attitude you could end up playing like that and come home with nothing.

“A win would send out a message to the other teams that Northern Ireland are tough to beat and that we are serious contenders to qualify for the finals.

“A defeat would not be a catastrophe, but a first win would keep everyone believing.”

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