Belfast Telegraph

Clean sheet record down to team effort, says McGovern

By Adam McKendry

After a seventh clean sheet in eight World Cup qualifiers, Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern was quick to deflect the praise away from himself and onto his team-mates.

Monday night's 2-0 win over the Czech Republic secured second place in Group C for Michael O'Neill's men and put them on the brink of a play-off for a place in Russia next summer.

It means it's 612 minutes since McGovern has been beaten for Northern Ireland, stretching back to Sami Khedira's 17th-minute strike last October in Hannover.

As a result, Northern Ireland now have the joint best defensive record in the European qualifiers, along with group opponents Germany, with just two goals conceded.

But the 33-year-old says it's been a team effort to put themselves in that position.

"It's fantastic, but I can't take too much credit for that, it's a whole team thing," Enniskillen man McGovern insisted.

"You don't get clean sheets without everyone working their socks off and I think we did that (on Monday).

"I didn't have much to do, and it's been like that in a lot of games, and that's testament to the guys in front of me.

"We've got Jonny Evans, a guy who's been linked with a big move, and Aaron Hughes, who's got 108 caps. It's great to play behind those two guys, and the rest of the team add to that as well. They protect us so well."

The Norwich City man also admitted that the squad were delighted that second place in the group had been guaranteed with the win over the Czechs.

McGovern revealed that second place was the goal the squad had set for themselves from the start, and that they couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

"It feels fantastic, and hopefully it's enough for a play-off spot," he said. "But that's what we set out to get in the group, second place, and now we've got it, so we're delighted with how the group's panned out."

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