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Keeping faith in Northern Ireland's new style will be key, insists Boyce

 

By Steven Beacom

Liam Boyce is confident that manager Michael O'Neill's new system for the Northern Ireland team is going to bear fruit in the future.

For the Nations League, O'Neill adopted a more dynamic way of playing with a high press, but while performances were encouraging, Northern Ireland lost all four of their games - home and away to Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

The latest defeat - 2-1 to the Austrians at Windsor Park on Sunday - was similar to the other three, with O'Neill's men creating openings but ultimately coming up short.

Burton Albion striker Boyce, however, is hoping that the manager maintains the current style for the Euro 2020 qualifiers which begin next year.

"At the start of the Nations League we didn't know what way we were going to play," said Boyce. "Obviously before the first game we talked about what way we were going to do it and for most of the time it has gone really well.

"It's been good to see how Michael wants us to play come to fruition and I believe it is working even with a step up in quality.

"We just need to concentrate and keep believing in it. The more we do it, the more we get used to it, and the plan is that it helps us in the Euro 2020 qualifiers. We obviously have to fine tune a few things but results will start to come."

Former Cliftonville hero Boyce says Northern Ireland have 'nothing to lose' heading towards the Euros.

He admitted, though, that losing to Austria at the weekend in Belfast was a bitter blow, especially after drawing 0-0 against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin last week when the visitors should have won.

"The loss to Austria was sort of a kick in the you-know-whats," stated Boyce.

"We were confident going from the Republic game when we played really well to a step up in quality. We did the same things and they worked for most of the game.

"We went from nearly scoring in the last 20 seconds of the game to them going up the other end and scoring a winner.

"It was disappointing but we just have to keep believing in how we're playing and take confidence from the performances."

Boyce acknowledged that the introduction of West Ham star Marko Arnautovic late in the fray at Windsor was crucial after Corry Evans had given Northern Ireland hope of a victory with his equaliser in front of the Kop from a clever Jordan Jones pass.

"We showed character to come back from 1-0 down and scored a really good goal with Jordan's pace up the left and Corry getting through the middle to score. It was a good move and a good finish," said Boyce.

"I think we were the better side until the final 30 seconds of the match.

"When they brought on Arnautovic you could see the quality he has. He started to cause problems, and the counter-attack goal he set up at the end was a killer."

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