Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Paddy McCourt a must to play against Serbia: Worthy

Northern Ireland 4 Faroe Islands 0

Nigel Worthington admits Pat McCourt has made himself undroppable for Northern Ireland's crunch clash against Serbia next month.



McCourt lit up Windsor Park with a dazzling display on Wednesday night, scoring two wonderful goals as Worthington's men romped to a 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands.

Three points, and the emphatic nature of the performance, have raised Northern Ireland's hopes of claiming second place in their Euro 2012 qualifying group.

Worthington's side are now third, two points off Slovenia with a game in hand, meaning the visit of Serbia on September 2 is a crucial one.

McCourt had not started a competitive match before last night's win but shone in the absence of Kyle Lafferty, Chris Brunt, Josh McQuoid, Martin Paterson and Warren Feeney.

Now Worthington, who has taken some time to be won over by the mercurial Celtic winger, is ready to throw his plans out of the window to accommodate him.

“Paddy's got fantastic feet, he twists defenders this way and that and he can really turn it on,” he said.

“But you've got to be honest and say it publicly...where are you going to play him against Serbia, because they are going to have 10 men coming at you.

“Yet he has to play. I'll have to pick a team pretty much around him and make sure he's there.”

Worthington will hope McCourt's eye-catching display against the Faroes will be enough to catch the eye of Hoops boss Neil Lennon, another who has been reluctant to hand the 27-year-old a regular starting berth.

“If Paddy can get more regular first-team football that's going to help us,” he said.

“That's been shown with Niall McGinn (who has left Celtic on loan). He's had a full pre-season with Brentford and where he was a year ago against this match is chalk and cheese.”

Before this week, Northern Ireland had scored just three times in five Group C matches so Worthington was pleased to see his side playing with a new-found freedom.

“The win was the first thing, that was number one but if you get three, four, five goals that's even better.

The first was scored by skipper Aaron Hughes and Worthington was delighted for him.

“He can now look back on his career, when the time comes, and say 'I scored a goal for Northern Ireland'. Fantastic,” added the manager.

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