Belfast Telegraph

Liam Boyce form gives Michael O'Neill much food for thought

By Stuart McKinley

Liam Boyce has shot himself into contention for a first international start in one of the most important games Northern Ireland have faced in years.

The 24-year-old struck twice as Ross County hammered Kilmarnock - who had Josh Magennis in their line-up - 4-0 in the Scottish Premiership and his goals couldn't have come at a better time for international boss Michael O'Neill.

Kyle Lafferty, whose five goals in six matches have fired Northern Ireland to within touching distance of the Euro 2016 finals in France next summer, has had his pre-season wrecked by a knee injury.

That, plus the fact that he is well down the pecking order at Norwich City, means it is highly unlikely the Fermanagh man will have played any club football this season before Friday week's European qualifier away to the Faroe Islands.

Jamie Ward is also facing a race against time to make the game in Torshavn after he missed Nottingham Forest's 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers after picking up a hamstring injury in a midweek Championship game against Charlton Athletic, potentially leaving O'Neill short of options in attack.

Boyce scored his first in the second minute at Rugby Park and then netted again on the half hour as Ross County wrapped up the 4-0 success before half-time.

"You know that if you do the business for your club you can be confident that Michael O'Neill is going to take a good look at playing you," said Boyce.

Boyce's former Cliftonville team-mate Joe Gormley is under consideration for the trip to the Faroes and the home clash with Hungary the following Monday.

He has made four appearances for Posh this season, but has yet to find the net and was an unused substitute in their 2-1 defeat to Burton Albion.

Two victories for Northern Ireland would clinch qualification for the European Championship finals, if the Hungarians also lose at home to Romania in their first match of the double header.

Any other sequence of results would take the group down to the final double header in October.

Belfast Telegraph


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