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Comment: Kyle Lafferty should be paired with Liam Boyce if he can seal Northern Ireland return

 

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Kyle Lafferty’s Northern Ireland future is uncertain (Ian Rutherford/PA)

Kyle Lafferty’s Northern Ireland future is uncertain (Ian Rutherford/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Big moment: Gavin Whyte missed a glorious chance last night

Big moment: Gavin Whyte missed a glorious chance last night

©William Cherry / Presseye

Liam Boyce

Liam Boyce

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Kyle Lafferty’s Northern Ireland future is uncertain (Ian Rutherford/PA)

Another game away from home, another defeat and another frustrating night when Northern Ireland failed to score. It's fast becoming a nasty habit.

Michael O'Neill's men have now gone six games on the road without a goal.

They should have scored in the 1-0 defeat in Austria last week and how they didn't find the net in the 2-0 loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina last night beggared belief.

True, on occasions O'Neill's team were unfortunate in the opposition area and hit the post three times, but on others they were just plain wasteful. At international level you get punished when you keep blowing big opportunities.

George Saville and substitute Gavin Whyte missed glorious chances when composure was required.

Edin Dzeko, the Roma striker and forever a hero at Manchester City for his Premier League winning exploits, showed Northern Ireland the way with clinical finishing in each half to grab a brace and take his tally for his country to a staggering 55 goals.

Dzeko is a world-class operator. O'Neill doesn't have anyone in attack in that category.

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Unfortunately the one Northern Ireland front man with a proven international track record in front of goal, Kyle Lafferty, was sitting at home after pulling out of the squad late on.

Going forward O'Neill has to sort that situation out. Lafferty's absence was a shadow hanging over the Nations League double header for the whole time Northern Ireland were away.

The pair will meet before the November fixtures against the Republic of Ireland and Austria. Hopefully the conversation will lead to Lafferty re-affirming his commitment to the cause because you would fancy him to take the chances the team are creating at present, but if O'Neill feels time is up for the Rangers striker his judgement has to be trusted and the team must move on.

As a lone striker in Bosnia, Liam Boyce showed he has a bit about him in tough away fixtures. If Lafferty does return, how about playing the pair of them together in Dublin to get back on the scoring trail?

Results-wise, the Nations League campaign has been a shocker for Northern Ireland, with three defeats out of three and probable relegation to tier three of the competition.

In terms of performance, there have been plus points and minus marks.

Jamal Lewis is a fantastic prospect at left-back but needs to cut out silly mistakes such as the slip that led to Bosnia's opening goal, and others like Paddy McNair and George Saville have to learn fast on the job too.

It would also help if skipper Steven Davis got game time at Southampton or elsewhere if he has to move in January.

O'Neill needs his best player firing on all cylinders.

Northern Ireland have now won just two out of their last 11 games and both of those were friendlies. Despite that poor run, there is hope. O'Neill inspired his players to the Euro 2016 finals and almost to the World Cup on a wave of momentum. Northern Ireland could do with finding some of that before the Euro 2020 qualifiers begin in March.


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