Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Worthington: We're back in the hunt

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington insisted his side are "back in the mix" after they completed the double over San Marino in their World Cup qualifying group.

Goals from Gareth McAuley and substitute Chris Brunt - their first at international level - were the highlights of a 3-0 victory.

With Grant McCann also finding the target, Northern Ireland have been propelled into second place in Group Three on goal difference, although they have played a game more than their rivals.

The province have home games to come against Poland and Slovenia next month, and Worthington claimed the victory was the perfect preparation.

He said: "The goal was to get the three points and we achieved that to go second in the table.

"That sets us up nicely for the match against Poland. We have played a game more but we are back in the mix.

"It was a very professional, solid performance tonight. We scored three goals and kept a clean sheet, so it was very pleasing. I was delighted with our attitude.

"People might say it is only San Marino but you still have to go out and do the job. The big plus was getting an early goal. That settled everyone down."

McAuley made the breakthrough in the seventh minute with a superb half-volley following a corner from McCann.

Scunthorpe midfielder McCann then extended their lead with an equally fine strike 25 minutes later.

And Northern Ireland sealed an emphatic victory in the 63rd minute when Brunt's free-kick went under the goalkeeper's body.

Worthington said: "We cannot just rely on David Healy to get goals. We need other people to weigh in and to get three different scorers in this game is very pleasing.

"McCann has done exactly as we asked. He has passed the ball well and kept it simple. His delivery from set-pieces was first class, and he scored again."

Lafferty, however, is out of the Poland game along with Steven Davis and George McCartney, who all picked up yellow cards.

Worthington is considering questioning McCartney's booking in particular.

"I did not have a full view but people who have seen it on TV say it was a little bit harsh," said Worthington.

"I will inquire whether they can review it. We will ask the question and see where we go.

"Having the three bookings was the only blip and something we could have done without.

"The upside is we will have two first-class players in Jonny Evans and Sammy Clingan back from injury.

"That eases the blow slightly but you want all your good players fit and available."

Worthington is already relishing prospect of back-to-back fixtures at Windsor Park, adding: "They will be two good games against Poland and Slovenia and tough games as well.

"But we are at home, so we will have to go and perform."

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