Belfast Telegraph

Ukraine v Northern Ireland: Conor Washington waiting for the call to join up with hit-man Kyle Lafferty

EURO 2016

By Paul Ferguson

Conor Washington is ready to answer the call if Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill selects a much more offensive team against Ukraine tomorrow night.

QPR striker Washington, scorer of two international goals in five appearances, was a second half substitute during the defeat to Poland on Sunday night in Nice and made an immediate impact with Northern Ireland's first real chance of the game.

The 24-year-old hopes to be selected ahead of Jamie Ward against the Yellow and Blues to form a partnership with lead hitman Kyle Lafferty.

"We got straight back on the training ground after the loss to Poland and now it is up to us to rectify the situation following the defeat and I obviously want to play my part in that - whether it is starting or coming off the bench," admits Washington, who only came into the Northern Ireland squad in March.

"The gaffer will do his work in terms of analysing Ukraine for us and then he will tell us how he wants us to play and set up. It's important that we are able to nullify their strengths, which we have been told are the two wingers, and also try and make sure our strengths come out on the night."

On Sunday, when Washington picked the ball up on the right wing he had a great chance to score his third Northern Ireland goal and an all important equaliser, but the pitch more than Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny won the battle.

"When it came off my head the ball just wouldn't slow down, it was so quick on the pitch," added English born Washington.

"I expected to be able to get another touch before it went close to the keeper so that I could either get a shot in or cross. It was really disappointing for me."

Michael McGovern, meanwhile is adamant the squad must have no regrets following tomorrow's match in Lyon.

The 31-year-old goalkeeper from Enniskillen said: "It was a magnificent achievement to qualify first and foremost and finish top of our group. But we are not happy to come here and enjoy the experience because you only enjoy it if you achieve things on the pitch.

"The fans have come here in good numbers and it was really disappointing the other night not to do ourselves justice in terms of our performance and the result.

"But the Poland game has now been put to bed. As the games are coming thick and fast we haven't been able to dwell on it. Now we have an opportunity to put things right on Thursday, and that is what we aim to do."

Ukraine, having lost their opening game to Germany -despite playing very well - are a wounded but dangerous animal.

The Northern Ireland players spent last night watching video analysis of the Ukrainians and in Dynamo Kiev winger Andriy Yarmolenko, they have one of the best players at the tournament while on other flank, Sevilla's Yevhen Konoplyanka will be a real handful.

McGovern, a former Celtic keeper, concedes: "They are big threats. Yarmolekno is the poster boy of their team but they have quality throughout the team. They are strong at the back, they are a big physical team.

"And they have the young lad who plays the No 10 position, Viktor Kovalenko. It is a tough test.

Captain Davis having started in an attacking position against Poland is likely to revert into his more familiar central midfield role alongside Ollie Norwood.

McGivern says it is imperative Davis is heavily involved in the Northern Ireland action.

"Steven is our main man, he is our captain and leader. The more times we can get our good players on the ball and the more we can keep it the better. It is not rocket science."

Belfast Telegraph