Belfast Telegraph

No Laff... I'll be our goal king, insists Josh Magennis

By Steven Beacom

Josh Magennis is ready to step up to the plate for Northern Ireland, believing that in the absence of Kyle Lafferty, he can score the goal that takes the country to the Euro 2016 finals.

Lafferty has been Northern Ireland's kingpin in the qualifying campaign so far, scoring seven times in eight matches, his latest coming in dramatic circumstances on Monday night when he struck a 93rd-minute equaliser against Hungary to keep Michael O'Neill's men on course for a trip to France next year.

But when October 8 comes around, Lafferty will be unavailable for another critical home match versus Greece due to suspension.

It means O'Neill must find a replacement for the Norwich striker.

No easy task given his outstanding form at international level over the past 12 months.

Normally Magennis comes off the bench late on to give Lafferty a rest, but on Monday the Kilmarnock man entered the fray as substitute to play alongside his good friend from Fermanagh in attack with Northern Ireland chasing the game.

It was interesting to hear O'Neill admit after the match that the former Rangers player, running on empty in his second game of the season after recovering from a knee injury, was going to come off when the score was 0-0. The manager changed his mind once Hungary took the lead.

There will be no such dilemma next month.

Lafferty will be watching the game rather than playing in it.

Magennis would love to take his place and is feeling confident he could net his first international goal against Greece and help Northern Ireland reach the European Championship finals for the first time in their history.

"I might be the front-runner to replace Kyle but we have Billy McKay and Will Grigg too," said the 25-year-old from Bangor.

"It's up to me to do as much as I can to make sure I'm feeling right and in my absolute best shape when the Greece match comes around and if Michael chooses to give me 90 minutes in the next game I know I've got it in me to get that goal.

"I started off playing the last five or maybe 10 minutes for Northern Ireland, but recently it's been 15 or 20 and that is a progression for me. The next step would be a starting place."

Magennis, one of the fun figures in the squad, revealed Monday's match was a rollercoaster of emotions for him, going from the low of falling behind to the high of Lafferty's late, late leveller.

"I was on the sidelines ready to come on and then you watch their goal going in and think 'oh my goodness'. You're down in the dumps, but to be on the pitch when we equalised was the other end of the spectrum. Euphoric," said Magennis, with a big beaming smile on his face.

"It was unbelievable when Kyle scored, hearing the fans going mental. It's great being on at the same time as Kyle. He is absolutely deadly at the moment.

"He's a very good team-mate and I cherish him as a friend too. I talk to him about a lot of stuff on and off the pitch, things like playing for big clubs like Norwich and Rangers.

"I respect him and I feel we have a mutual understanding on the pitch. Defenders not only have to think about Kyle as a presence but myself as well."

Belfast Telegraph