Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Northern Ireland fans deserve better from us: Norwood

In favour: Oliver Norwood has been a regular name on the Northern Ireland teamsheet under Michael O'Neill

Oliver Norwood says Northern Ireland owe it to supporters to deliver maximum points from their remaining World Cup qualifiers.

Michael O'Neill's squad face a marathon trek this week to Azerbaijan for the match on Friday and then to Israel from Baku for the final game the following Tuesday in Tel Aviv.

And Norwood, 22, is hoping it is plane sailing following the shock defeat by Luxembourg in their last outing, which prompted a nationwide outcry.

That humbling came on the back of a superb win against Russia and a courageous defeat at the hands of Portugal.

Huddersfield midfielder Norwood said: "Do we owe the fans a performance or two? Yes, we do. There were a few harsh words said after the Luxembourg game.

"As a group we have to react and, if we get six points from next two games, it will be put to bed. It hurts when you do not win games and although it will be difficult we must believe we can win both of them or there is no point in going.

"Michael O'Neill has us playing a certain style of football now. We got the win against Russia and would have got the win against Portugal if we had not gone down to nine men. We threw the game away.

"We showed we can compete with the likes of Russia and Portugal, and while Luxembourg was a massive disappointment, there is good belief in the squad. We have a bunch of young players combined with those with experience. It is a nice mix to have."

O'Neill is in talks with the Irish Football Association about a new contract and Norwood enjoys working with the manager.

"Obviously," he said. "He has played me, put faith in me and named me in big games. Hopefully I can stay in his plans. Michael is doing a good job.

"I know I have not hit the heights at Huddersfield regarding where I want to be. There have been some decent performances but that is about it."

The party are set to embark on an estimated 6,100 mile round trip from Belfast to Baku and a stamina-sapping 13 hours flight time.

Norwood, though, is not complaining. "It is a good job we are not walking," he said. "These things are part and parcel of football, though. We just have to go and compete over these two games.

"It will be a different experience as it is a different environment to what we are used to, but it will be interesting. You have to deal with different situations in football and this is another one."

While Norwood played a full game in the 2-1 home defeat by Watford in the Championship at the weekend, Martin Paterson was again on the bench.

Northern Ireland's goal hero against Russia came on in the second half but failed to supply the spark Huddersfield needed to get anything from the game.

Norwood is convinced his team mate's luck will turn and added: "Everyone can see what Martin brings to the team.

"He is enjoying every day but he has been unfortunate not to get off the mark yet for us. Once he does, I am sure he will kick on and get a few more goals."

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