Belfast Telegraph

Josh Magennis planning to make big impact from start for Northern Ireland

 

Goal hero: Josh Magennis celebrates his late winner against Belarus with skipper Steven Davis
Goal hero: Josh Magennis celebrates his late winner against Belarus with skipper Steven Davis

By Paul Ferguson

Josh Magennis is hoping his goalscoring cameo role against Belarus last March and hard graft in training will give him the edge when boss Michael O'Neill comes to select his main striker to tackle Estonia in Tallinn on Saturday night.

The Bolton Wanderers hitman came off the Windsor Park bench to net the winning goal - allowing Northern Ireland to hit top spot in Group C, ahead of Germany and Holland, on six points following their 2-0 win over Estonia three days prior.

In the opening two Euro 2020 qualifiers, O'Neill has started with Rangers outcast Kyle Lafferty, but with Kesh's favourite son having hardly featured for the Gers in months, and with Wigan forward Will Grigg ruled out through injury, Magennis and Burton Albion's Liam Boyce are to set to battle it out for the lone striker's role.

Magennis showed a terrific intensity while he was on the pitch against Estonia and Belarus, unsettling the opposition defenders and generally being a nuisance.

The 28-year-old is convinced, if given the nod, he can play in exactly the same way for a sustained length of time against Estonia.

"Any of the strikers in the squad could get the nod," admits Magennis. "We've all got different qualities that add something to the team.

"Obviously as a footballer you want to play - playing for your country is the biggest thing ever. The only way to cement that place is train hard in the build up and catch Michael's eye.

"I'm preparing for these games with everything I have got.

"My fitness is good, I've managed to shed more weight and just trying to become as effective as I possibly can with the way I play.

"My game is all about high intensity running and power.

"The fundamentals of my game are all about working hard. I honestly believe if you work hard then something will eventually go right for you, and that's what happened in the last game against Belarus."

Northern Ireland desperately need to secure six points from this away double header to give themselves a realistic chance of challenging Germany and Holland for the Euro 2020 qualification places come the business end of the campaign.

But, despite the victories in Belfast, these two games are expected to be extremely difficult, especially with the men in green not having won or even scored in their last seven internationals.

Northern Ireland's last away victory came back in September 2017 - a 3-0 win over San Marino when Magennis scored twice.

"International football is so hard to judge," adds Magennis.

"Everything is so tight - technical ability, concentration and skill level. Obviously the way you play at home is different to how you play away. We're under no illusion that these two games are going to be comfortable for us - we are expecting two hard games.

"We managed to beat them both at Windsor Park but we can't think we can just beat them by showing up. We've got to go there, prepare right, work hard and then let the quality take over.

"At this level, if you are complacent in anyway, you will be found out. We have put ourselves in a fantastic position and we want to hold on to top spot in the group."

• Northern Ireland will face the Czech Republic in an away friendly on Monday, October 14.

The venue for the game, which takes place four days after the Euro 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands in Rotterdam, has yet to be confirmed.

The Czech Republic have been good opponents for Northern Ireland recently - they are undefeated in their last four meetings, with the last game seeing Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt score in a 2-0 win at Windsor Park back in September 2017.

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