Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Northern Ireland's Andy Little not listening to negative statistics

Andy Little

Andy Little has dismissed the negative statistics surrounding Northern Ireland as "pub chat" but admits they need an overdue win against Luxembourg tomorrow.

Manager Michael O'Neill has presided over three defeats and a draw since taking the top job, but the run of modest results pre-dates his arrival.

Defeat to Russia in Friday's first World Cup qualifier took the team's winless streak to eight matches and their only success in 16 outings came at home to the lowly Faroe Islands over a year ago.

But Rangers utility man Little does not wallow in the numbers.

"I'm not really one for statistics, but there have been quite a few bad ones for Northern Ireland over the years, like the length of time we had without scoring (10 games under Sammy McIlroy)," he said.

"If that's what people like to talk about then maybe it's good pub chat but it's not something we think about going into games.

"If you look at our starting line-up and the squad we have we should be performing better, we know that.

"Albeit we've had a bad start in Russia but it's a fresh campaign and we can kick on from here.

"Luxembourg will not be easy by any circumstances but home advantage will be key. We have to get a lot more of the ball and take our chances for goals.

"Against Portugal they showed it would be a difficult game for us, but if it is goals we're looking for, I want to contribute to that."

Derby's Jamie Ward made his first start for Northern Ireland in Moscow, selected ahead of the injured Shane Ferguson on the left side of midfield.

Ferguson has rejoined the squad in Belfast after being cleared for duty following groin trouble, but Ward is hoping to get another chance to impress having been asked to curb his natural attacking instincts at the Lokomotiv Stadium.

"I was nervous, I think that's natural. It's something different, not like playing club football, which you're used to week in, week out," he said.

"I had to do a job for the team and I thought I did it. I worked hard but hopefully the game tomorrow will be a completely different game.

"I'd rather be going forward than defending most of the time. It's up to Michael if he wants to play me up front or wherever but as long as I play I don't really mind."

Northern Ireland will hope for good news today on Jonny Evans' fitness.

The Manchester United man is being monitored after feeling pain in his ankle during his first 90 minutes of the season against Russia but O'Neill is confident.

"We have no major concerns over Jonny but we just have to manage him between now and the game," he said.

"If there's any risk we wouldn't take that risk and neither would Jonny."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre