Belfast Telegraph

McLaughlin hoping for a change at Crewe

By Graham Luney

Conor McLaughlin admits it's a 'strange feeling' Northern Ireland playing an international at Gresty Road in Crewe, but he's relishing the challenge.

For many of Michael O'Neill's side who arrive for the friendly contest against Qatar tomorrow (5pm) it will be their first introduction to the home of League One side Crewe Alexandra, but McLaughlin has already visited the Cheshire venue.

"I played against Crewe at Gresty Road earlier in the season for Fleetwood and don't have particularly great memories," said McLaughlin.

"We lost the game 1-0 but my main memory was the pitch.

"It wasn't great and it was quite bare, but I've been told it has improved since then.

"All the lads know the main focus is on the Romania game, but this will be good for those of us who haven't played in four weeks.

"Most of the squad are in that position so getting minutes on the pitch is important.

"As much as the results of friendlies don't really matter, we all want to put in a performance because your confidence always gets a boost when you win games."

The right-back and his team-mates know the mega-rich state don't boast a rich football pedigree but they will be keen to show they are moving in the right direction ahead of hosting the World Cup in 2022.

"They may not have star names, but that doesn't mean they won't be difficult opposition," added McLaughlin.

Meanwhile, Ross County striker Liam Boyce is thrilled to return to the international stage.

"I scored a couple of goals at crucial times and it's given me the chance to play international football," he said.

"It brings a different type of pressure altogether as you have a platform to perform on.

"At your club there are livelihoods at stake because people are out of contract and they need to perform with a different pressure on them.

"We went on a run of nine games where we won eight and drew one that has sort of pushed us to safety. We just needed to get over the line and thankfully we did that before the last game."

Belfast Telegraph


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