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Davis: Players back O'Neill

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis insists the players are firmly behind manager Michael O'Neill.

Results in World Cup qualifying have been poor, not least defeats at the hands of Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in the side's last two outings, and a haul of six points from nine Group F matches is a modest return.

But there is a feeling that Northern Ireland's displays have been better than that, with a number of chances going begging in tight fixtures.

O'Neill seems likely to be offered a contract extension by the Irish FA and Davis would be happy to see him stay.

"I think we've all enjoyed working with Michael and his staff even though results have been disappointing in the campaign," Davis said.

"The frustration stems from the fact we feel we haven't got what we've deserved from games.

"I suppose I can only speak for myself but I've enjoyed working with Michael and I feel we're not far away from being a decent side."

The question of progress is key and, with O'Neill having introduced a number of new faces into the squad and starting XI, Southampton midfielder Davis has been encouraged.

"We feel we are on the right path and hopefully the experience gained in this campaign will stand us in good stead for the next Euros," he said.

"We've been unlucky in a few games. We're not going to hide, results haven't been good enough, but we feel as though we're progressing."

Although fourth place in Group F is the top prize available to Northern Ireland going into tomorrow's final match against Israel, Davis wants his side to go out with a flourish rather than a fourth successive loss.

"Without doubt we don't want to finish on a run of defeats," he added.

"We know it will be tough. Israel are a good side and a threat going forward but we want to finish on a high for ourselves and give us something looking forward.

"I'm sure they'll see the same opportunity as we do, to win the match. It should be a difficult game but a good game."


From Belfast Telegraph