Belfast Telegraph

Goal-shy Kyle Lafferty will come good for Northern Ireland: Chris Baird

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty has been backed to end his international goal drought.
Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty has been backed to end his international goal drought.
Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty has been backed to end his international goal drought.

Former Northern Ireland player Chris Baird has backed Kyle Lafferty to rediscover his goal-scoring form for Northern Ireland.

The Rangers forward has now gone 14 international appearances since he last found the net for Northern Ireland against Azerbaijan on 11 November 2016.

It's a lengthy run for a man with 20 international goals, bettered in Northern Ireland's history by only 36-goal David Healy.

He had his chances against Belarus on Sunday evening, notably when he just failed to get on the end of Jamal Lewis' perfect cross under pressure from goalkeeper Andrei Klimovich.

"There's a lot of pressure on Kyle because of what he has done in previous campaigns," Baird told Sky Sports.

"It's nice that other people are chipping in with the goas but he'll be frustrated. It's a few games since he last scored but keep creating the chances and he's going to get on the end of one eventually and it's going to help the team massively."

It was substitute forward Josh Magennis who did get the all-important second goal on 87 minutes minutes, blasting home Paddy McNair's cross to finish off an opportunity that he helped to create by taking down a long ball and spreading the play.

The goal was thoroughly deserved for the Bolton attacker's all-round impact off the bench, against Estonia three days earlier as much as against Belarus.

And, with financial complications at club level after the squad's February wages were overdue before being paid, the international window will have been a much-needed tonic, according to Baird.

"We all know the situation at Bolton at the minute," the former Fulham player said. "It must be tough for them but you want to play football.

"(Magennis) has been professional about it, 100%. He still goes out every week and plays.

"To come over here and get away from that situation is massive. He loves coming here and he's been a true professional for years now. I was delighted for him because he's made a real impact on both games."

With the final action of the match, Leeds goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell pulled off a close-range stop when Pavel Nekhaychik was played in on goal at the back post.

"He did it in the first game against Estonia with a one-on-one save so that could have been different," said Baird. "Again last night, it was the last kick of the game and again if that goes in it would have been completely different. Michael would have been gutted, the players would have been gutted.

"Thankfully Bailey was there again for us to help us out."

Northern Ireland now face a double-header of away fixtures against Estonia (June 8) and Belarus (June 11).

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