Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Worthington backs Healy to rediscover goal touch

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington has vowed to stand by David Healy through his current barren spell.

The province's record scorer failed to find the target for the sixth match running in the 1-1 draw against Israel in a friendly at Windsor Park.

Grant McCann made the breakthrough in the 17th minute only for Elyaniv Barta to equalise eight minutes later.

Healy has been stuck on 35 goals for months now and was replaced in the 59th minute by Martin Paterson.

Worthington, however, offered the Sunderland striker some words of comfort after the game and backed him to rise to the occasion in his country's remaining World Cup qualifiers this autumn.

He said: "I am not going to disregard a player of David's quality. He is a prolific goalscorer for Northern Ireland. After him we haven't got one.

"So because the lad is going through a lean time as all strikers do we have to encourage, support and help him.

"I would love to have seen him score tonight but we have three huge games to come and we all know in that situation he likes to step up to the mark. What better time to get back on the trail?

"It is a case of the ball dropping for you and having that sharpness. To be fair to David, he looks better than he did towards the end of last season.

"He looked like his old self. He was very bright this week and seemed to enjoy his work."

Northern Ireland suffered a blow before the game when Manchester United defender Jonny Evans returned to his club following an ankle problem.

It was an easy decision to make, according to Worthington.

He said: "Jonny trained extremely well on Monday and Tuesday but woke up today with a stiff ankle.

"There was no way I was going to risk him from our point of view. With him being in and around the first team, I wasn't going to risk him with Manchester United either.

"I spoke to the club and he was back on the first available plane. That's the way you have to work with clubs. Had it been a qualifier it might have been different."

With qualifiers to come against Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Worthington was pleased with the workout, substitute goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey making a fine save near the end.

Worthington added: "It was a useful exercise and I was very pleased with our second-half display. We passed the ball quicker and played some good football."

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