Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

We’ll get in Poland's faces, says Gareth

It's not easy to win on the road as Northern Ireland can painfully recall.

The 3-0 victory in San Marino in February was only the third success in 32 competitive matches on the team’s travels.

It’s an away record that is embarrassing and agonising and it must end if Northern Ireland are to qualify for a major tournament again.

Tomorrow night’s showdown against Poland will not be a stroll in the park either.

When international sides hit the road they have to beat back a wave of patriotism generated by the fans.

Windsor Park regulars know how it works and Poland found that out to their cost in the 3-2 defeat in March.

Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc probably still has the Green and White Army waking him up in a cold sweat at four o’clock in the morning.

But tomorrow Northern Ireland will be feeling the intimidation and heat.

At the Silesian Stadium, situated between Katowice and Chorzow, the overhwelming majority of the crowd of just over 47,000 will be baying for revenge.

Ipswich Town skipper Gareth McAuley knows the atmosphere will be intense but he doesn’t believe there will be fear in the eyes of Nigel Worthington’s men.

“It’s going to be hostile with a big crowd there but these are games and occasions you play football for,” he said.

“If we can get something there it would be a very big scalp. I think the atmosphere will galvanise us. When the fans get behind us at Windsor it gives us something extra, though we can turn a hostile atmosphere over there to our advantage by frustrating them.

“The crowd will get on their backs if we start well and it’s important for us to stay focused on the professional job we need to do.”

The Silesian Stadium, scheduled to be used in the 2012 European Championships, will be rocking.

Poland will have a 12th man – as Northern Ireland boast when the fans arrive at Windsor – but McAuley insists there is no point allowing negative thoughts to creep into minds.

“We are definitely not going to Poland with the attitude that we are going for a draw – no way,” he said.

“We will do to them what we did at Windsor, get in their faces, close their players down and make it hard for them to play.

“We have to impose ourselves on the opposition, that is what we are good at. That is what we pride ourselves in and we have to keep on doing that.

“A positive approach has got us results so why would we change things? We believe we can get a result.

“These are massive games now but why should we let pressure get to us? As a group we set ourselves a target of qualification and we are still in with a shout.”

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