Belfast Telegraph

Lafferty sings praises of Green and White Army

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland were trailing 2-0 in Slovenia and fans were staring defeat in the face but it didn’t stop them joining in the Mexican wave sweeping around the The Ljudski Vrt Stadium in Maribor.

Radio 5 Live commentator Ian Dennis summed up the away support perfectly when he remarked: “They really are a credit to their country.”

Unfortunately the players could not reward the fans but those same supporters will sing their hearts out at Windsor Park tomorrow night to help the team find the X-factor they are missing.

While the England fans booed Ashley Cole on Saturday, the Green and White Army contributed to a magnificent atmosphere in the 12,435 capacity crowd.

If Nigel Worthington’s side lose against San Marino tomorrow night, they can expect to hear a few boos — and the criticism will be justified.

But the supporters have moved on from the dark days of sectarian chanting and the abuse hurled at former skipper, Neil Lennon.

At Windsor they have performed as heroically as the team and they will need to show their passion in Northern Ireland’s hour of need.

Rangers skipper Kyle Lafferty (pictured) admitted he was impressed by the fans’ performance in Maribor and he is desperate to put a smile on their faces.

“I can’t see any Northern Ireland fans booing their own players,” said Lafferty.

“Perhaps if we play very badly as a team the fans would boo us but having a go at individual players is a joke.

“When the second goal went in the fans joined in the Mexican wave with the Slovenia fans and they are definitely still our 12th man.

“You just have to look at our record at Windsor to see how important the fans are. They have played a huge role in great wins over top sides.

“The supporters have been amazing and in the last few years their numbers have grown. Knowing that gives us a boost. Even when we are losing they will sing their hearts out — they are the best around.

“You need fans like that to move forward as a team but we also know that when the fans expect you to win and you don’t, criticism will come your way.”

Lafferty produced a man of the match performance on Saturday evening but it wasn’t enough to give his side any precious points on the road.

Northern Ireland are now hanging onto their World Cup dream by a thread but the Rangers goal-getter is remaining upbeat.

“There are seven games left and 21 points still to play for so there is no reason why we should give up now,” said Lafferty.

“We are only six points off the top of the group and we still have to play a lot of the teams at home.

“Everyone knows what we are capable of at home. We are not in a good position but everyone including the players, coaching staff and manager believe that we can still qualify.

“It’s nice to get praise for playing well but I take it all with a pinch of salt because we came home with no points.

“We wanted three points but it wasn’t to be and now we have to go out tomorrow, put this game behind us and get the three points.

“I was disappointed with myself as I had two or three chances, one of which I should have scored.

“Now I have to try and score against San Marino.”

As Kazakhstan proved for much of the game against England on Saturday, so-called international whipping boys won’t lie down for anyone.

Lafferty, who missed the opening two qualifiers through injury, added: “San Marino have been doing better recently, they have improved and teams are not going out and hammering them.

“We will take the game very seriously and although people are writing us off we know what we are capable of and our target is now three points.

“If we do score we won’t sit back and hold onto that lead — we will keep trying to score more.

“The atmosphere in the camp is still amazing and everyone gets on. There is no reason why we cannot turn things around.”

Belfast Telegraph

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