Belfast Telegraph

Healy faces new challenge after Northern Ireland axe

Northern Ireland record scorer David Healy is coming to terms with the fact he is no longer guaranteed a place in the team.

Manager Nigel Worthington has made it clear that unless the striker starts playing regularly for Sunderland — or at another club — the position is unlikely to change.

Healy, 30, had to settle for a second half run-out after coming off the bench in the 1-0 defeat by Serbia at Windsor Park.

He had a couple of chances to equalise but was out of luck and ended the year without a goal for the province in seven matches.

Worthington, however, was pleased with Healy's attitude after he opted to start with Warren Feeney and Kyle Lafferty.

He said: “I have to make decisions and the players have to get on with their jobs. Credit to David, he did that and I think everyone was willing him to score.”

Worthington is convinced that Healy — with a ratio of 35 goals in 79 games — is struggling to make an impact because he is on the fringes at Sunderland.

He said: “David was fine with my decision. I just told him I was going to start with two other strikers.

“For David, like others, you have got to work hard to get in the first-team or work hard to try and get first-team football elsewhere. It is a simple thing and I have been harping on about it for 18 months.”

BBC pundit and former Northern Ireland international John O'Neill added: “It was a brave decision by Nigel but not unexpected.

“David had one or two chances and I think everyone was willing the ball into the net. But I do not think we have seen the last of David Healy.”

While Healy's star appears to be fading, Niall McGinn's is beginning to burn brightly.

McGinn, 22, marked his first start in Belfast by picking up the man of the match award after an electric performance.

He kept Serbia on their toes and skipper Aaron Hughes is predicting a bright future for the Celtic winger.

Hughes said: “Niall is blessed with a lot of pace. As a defender if someone is quicker than you, there's not much you can do.

“The management are working with him and impress upon him if he gets a chance to run at people he should.

“He is encouraged to get his head down and go. Niall gets himself into some great positions. He can really scare defenders.”

Serbia secured the victory with a superb goal in the 57th minute from PSV Eindhoven striker Danko Lazovic.

He beat Maik Taylor from just inside the area after a clever dummy from Gojko Kacar set him up following a cross from Manchester United's Zoran Tosic.

It was Worthington's final game before his contract expires at the end of the year and he is now due to hold talks with IFA president Raymond Kennedy and chief executive Patrick Nelsen about a new deal.

Worthington said: “I have enjoyed it and would like to stay. We will talk as soon as I get the nod from the president.

“I feel we have come on in leaps and bounds. People can see we are trying to play good football and that is important to me.”

Belfast Telegraph

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