Northern Ireland’s most in-form striker is confident that he can end the team’s goal drought.
Not only can Peter Thompson boast two goals in his last two appearances for Stockport County — his first strikes for the club — the former Linfield hitman is also the last Northern Ireland player to score, having opened his international account in the 4-1 win over Georgia in March. Now the 24-year-old is targeting Slovenia for his first competitive goal.
“As a striker you always have to be confident, otherwise there is no point being in the team,” said Thompson.
“I have always had confidence in my own ability to score goals and I have always backed myself to score when the chances come.
“I hadn’t had that many chances for Stockport, so it didn’t worry me too much when I hadn’t scored for a while and I have been a slow starter most seasons anyway. I was pleased to get my first goal.
“I will be trying to prove myself in training like I always do, hoping to get a chance and then it is up to me to take it.”
Nigel Worthington’s side enter a double header away to Slovenia and at home to San Marino with just a solitary point from the opening two games.
And unless that statistic is drastically improved over the next week, hopes of reaching South Africa in the summer of 2010 will all but evaporate before the end of 2008.
Thompson, who hopes to win his eighth cap against Slovenia on Saturday night, isn’t too concerned about the points tally so far, but knows that the next two results are vitally important.
“Ideally we would have liked three or four points from the first two games, but after losing in Slovakia a point against a good Czech Republic side wasn’t bad,” said Thompson.
“It is important that we get some points now. We can’t afford to leave it too late to get points on the board and we will be looking for six points if at all possible against Slovenia and San Marino.”
Although the opening defeat in Slovakia was seen as a kick in the teeth, three successive wins — against Slovenia and then in back-to-back games home and away to San Marino — would give Worthington’s men ten points at the halfway stage of the group, the same tally as the same point in the Euro 2008 campaign.
Back then it was the second half of the campaign which scuppered qualification hopes, but with Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia still to come to Belfast, the tail end of this campaign isn’t so heavily weighted with difficult away games.
Thompson notched his first goal since joining Stockport County from Linfield in the summer just ten days ago in a 2-2 draw with Cheltenham Town and he followed that up on Friday night with the goal that put the Hatters 2-1 up in their derby clash with Oldham Athletic.
That means he has scored more goals this season that David Healy and Kyle Lafferty, but he doesn’t expect that to get him the nod ahead of those two established strikers for Saturday night’s game.
Even though after scoreless draws against Scotland and the Czech Republic and the goal in the 2-1 defeat in Slovakia being scored by an opposing defender Thompson is the last Northern Ireland man to have got his name on the scoresheet back in the March friendly against Georgia.
That strike came on top of the 44 he scored for Linfield, which helped gain him his break in England and now he is off and running there is every chance that there are more to come.
“The goals I have scored have given me confidence,” said Thompson.
“It was nice to get the first one, although I would have rather the team had won, so it was even better to score at home on Friday night in a derby against a team that was aiming for the top of the league.
“I was on a bit of a high after scoring my first goal for Stockport, but the feeling was one of relief as well to be finally up and running for the club.
“I look at Martin Paterson who has been banging in the goals for Burnley so far this season as well and he will be pushing for a place in the team.
“You can’t look past what David Healy, Kyle Lafferty and Warren Feeney have done in the past and although they might not have hit too many goals for their clubs, they will always be expected to score for Northern Ireland.
“I will be trying to prove myself in training like I always try to do, hoping to get a chance and then it is up to me to take it when the chance comes.”
l SATURDAY night’s first ever meeting between Northern Ireland and Slovenia will be watched by a sell-out crowd.
All 12,500 seats inside the Stadion Ljudski vrt in Maribor were been sold over a week ago as Slovenian football reaches a new peak of popularity after last month’s draw in Poland and 2-1 win at home to Slovakia.
Recently the Arena Petrol in the city of Celje has hosted Slovenia’s home games, with Maribor being the third most popular venue, behind that and the Bezigrad Stadium in the capital of Ljubljana.
The Northern Ireland allocation of 1,200 sold out immediately.