Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

We’re encouraged, but now we must add points: Baird

Chris Baird is confident the point gained by Northern Ireland against the Czech Republic on Wednesday night will finally kick-start their World Cup qualifying campaign.

“We have Slovenia away and San Marino at home in our next two games,” said the 26 year-old Fulham defender, “and if we can get six points out of that it will put us right back in contention in the group.

“The other results in our group so far have shown that all the teams, bar probably San Marino, are more than capable of taking points off each other.

“We have four home games left, so if we can win all of them and get a couple of victories away from home then I’m sure it will still leave us a chance of making the finals.”

With Steven Davis unfortunately having to pull out of the team to face the Czechs at late notice, Baird was given an unfamiliar central midfield role however the responsibility didn’t phase the man from Rasharkin.

“Playing in the centre against the Czech’s was tough, very tough,” said Baird, who was making his 35th appearance for his country. “And I must admit I’m feeling the effects of it I now, but as I’ve said before I’ll play anywhere for the team I’ll work my socks off and hopefully I did that on Wednesday.

“I enjoyed playing in the middle with Sammy (Clingan), who worked extremely hard in the first half of the match and when he went off at half-time with a shoulder injury young Michael O’Connor came in and did a superb job for us.”

The Czech Republic, who were excellent in the 2-2 draw with England at Wembley last month, went into their opening qualifier firm favourites to start their campaign with a victory but in the end Baird believes they will have been happy to have escaped a wet and windy Windsor Park without defeat.

“Maik Taylor didn’t have a difficult save to make all night and we even had our chances to snatch a win, we followed the manager’s instructions to the letter and in the end that helped us keep our shape and get our first point on the board,” Baird concluded.

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