Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Northern Ireland v Luxembourg: Confident Little knows the score

Andrew Little

Andy Little is a man on a mission. And an international mission to boot.

The soflty spoken Fermanagh native has been the man with the golden touch for Rangers this season, his six goals for the Ibrox outfit helping bring back a feelgood factor in the west end of Glasgow after the club’s demotion to the Third Division.

That’s good news for Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill who, like virtually every one of his predecessors, craves a confident goalscorer.

It’s gets better though, because not only is Little feeling good about himself, he is also determined to end his international goal drought.

And he wants the chance to do so tonight when Northern Ireland face Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park.

“In terms of scoring goals I am full of confidence at the minute and really, really enjoying playing a game every week,” said Little.

“Playing regularly has been great for me, scoring goals has been a bonus and something that I really want to bring into the Northern Ireland team rather than just being in the squad.

“I hope I start the game against Luxembourg. If we’re looking at trying to score goals and trying to win games hopefully I can contribute to that.

“I have 10 caps now and I still haven’t scored. I want to get that first goal.”

Little played just 14 minutes in Friday night’s 2-0 defeat to Russia — an experience that he says he didn’t particularly enjoy.

The expectation is that tonight’s game will be very different.

Luxembourg are currently above Northern Ireland in the Fifa rankings, but since when did anyone bar Lawrie Sanchez really place much stock on those?

The reality is that Northern Ireland were seeded higher when the World Cup draw was made and the quality of player that O’Neill has at his disposal is much higher than his opposite number Luc Holtz, whose team is largely made up of players from Luxembourg’s domestic league.

The men in green should have more of the ball than against Russia, the intention will be to turn that possession into goals.

While expectation levels have been played down of late — third place in Group F would be considered success and even the most optimistic of Northern Ireland fans isn’t expecting to have to source flights to Rio in June 2014 — Little believes that recent results haven’t been good enough.

“When you look at our starting line-up and the squad that we have we should be performing better,” he said.

O’Neill is certain to make changes to both the line-up and the formation for tonight’s game and Shane Ferguson, who has joined up with the squad after missing the trip to Russia through injury, is one who is likely to feature from the start.

Lee Camp left the team headquarters in Co Down on Sunday due to personal reasons and uncapped Trevor Carson, of Bury, has been called up as cover for Roy Carroll and Alan Mannus.

During the game in Russia, Jonny Evans felt pain in the ankle that he had surgery on in the summer but is expected to be fit for the game against Luxembourg.

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