Belfast Telegraph

New partnership can do damage in World Cup battles, says Lafferty

By Stuart McKinley

Kyle Lafferty is urging Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill to put his trust in the new partnership he has forged with Dean Shiels in the Northern Ireland attack.

The pair, who passed each other as one signed for Rangers in the summer and the other left, hit it off immediately, with Shiels supplying the pass from which Lafferty scored the goal that put Northern Ireland 2-0 up 20 minutes into the 3-3 draw against Finland at Windsor Park on Wednesday night.

Both men had chances to score in the second-half after being set-up by the other and with a World Cup qualifying campaign ahead — starting against Russia in Moscow next month — the early signs look good.

The embryonic partnership excited the crowd and Lafferty enjoyed it as much as those watching.

“Dean is a clever player, he is aware of everything that goes on on the pitch,” said Lafferty, who joined Swiss club Sion in July.

“He’s a great player and that’s why Rangers busted a gut to sign him. Hopefully both of us have done enough to get a start together against Russia.”

For a long time beanpole Lafferty was looked upon as the perfect foil for David Healy — the bigger man there to take the knocks while his sidekick banged in the goals.

Now, however, the roles are reversed slightly, although Lafferty (pictured) will still have to lead the line and be the one to battle it out with the rival centre-half while Shiels takes on the challenge of being the creator.

“That’s what the manager wants, he spoke to us before the game and said that if one of us drops off to get the ball then he wants the other one to be getting into the box,” said Lafferty.

“Luckily it was Dean who dropped off and I was in the box to score the goal.”

Lafferty bridged a gap of almost four years since his last goal at Windsor Park and he was frustrated that three Northern Ireland goals didn’t yield O’Neill’s first victory.

“When you score three goals at Windsor you expect to win, but it’s a learning curve for all of us and we’ll have to dig deep throughout the World Cup campaign,” Lafferty said.

Belfast Telegraph

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