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Kyle Lafferty has 'arrived' at Sunderland as boss praises two-goal haul on full debut

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Kyle Lafferty's brace is timely good news for Northern Ireland.

Kyle Lafferty's brace is timely good news for Northern Ireland.

Kyle Lafferty's brace is timely good news for Northern Ireland.

Kyle Lafferty marked his full Sunderland debut with a brace and, unsurprisingly, was lauded by his manager after the 2-2 draw with Gillingham on Saturday.

After making nine substitute appearances since his January signing, Lafferty was finally handed a starting spot by manager Phil Parkinson and repaid the manager's faith by twice giving his side the lead at the Stadium of Light.

The first was stooping header to open the scores while Lafferty looked to have won all three points when he made it 2-1 on 83 minutes with a clinical finish on George Dobson's pass.

There was a sting in the tail with a 96th minute equaliser, but that didn't take away from Lafferty's performance as fan's sang the striker's name.

“I'm pleased for Kyle,” said manager Parkinson.

“The first is a great team goal and the second is a fantastic pass from George and a cool finish. It's great, for us and him, to get off and running.

“He grew into the game and you always feel he's a danger when the ball goes into the box because his movement is very good.

“He had a great chance to score before that with his left foot and you'd expect him to put that away.

“I'm pleased, he's a good lad.

“There's been a lot of talk about players out of the team and making changes, but as I said before the game, it's up to the players to take that chance, whether it's off the bench or starting.

“You have to say 'I've arrived' and Kyle certainly did that.”

The goals are, of course, good news for Northern Ireland ahead of this month's Euro 2020 play-offs.

Lafferty hasn't scored for Northern Ireland almost three-and-a-half years, the last of his 20 international goals coming in November 2016.

Elsewhere, Paddy McNair struck to give Middlesbrough a Championship win over Charlton while Conor Washington equalised to earn Hearts a draw with Motherwell.

Michael O'Neill's Stoke City are now five places but just three points clear of the Championship drop-zone after a crucial 5-1 win over Josh Magennis' Hull City.

Belfast Telegraph