Belfast Telegraph

Serbia v Northern Ireland: Goals may come just in the nick of time for our boys

By Steven Beacom

You can almost set your watch by Northern Ireland in European Championship qualifiers.

So, if Nigel Worthington's side have not scored tomorrow night in Belgrade against Serbia with the final 20 minutes approaching, do not despair.

That's because a goal won't be too far away.

Maybe it's due to our boys coming on strong in the closing stages or the opposition tiring, but remarkably Northern Ireland's last four goals in an away game in Euro qualifiers have come between the 70th and 76th minutes.

David Healy (Iceland 72), Kyle Lafferty (Sweden 72), Corry Evans (Slovenia 70) and Lafferty again (Faroe Islands 76) have all played their part in the strange sequence.

Rangers star Lafferty has now eight international goals. The following should give him plenty of incentive — one more and he will go level with the greatest of them all, George Best, who scored nine times in 37 internationals.

Fellow Ibrox ace Healy passed Bestie many years ago.

The former Sunderland striker may not have found the net for his country since October 15, 2008, but 35 goals in 85 appearances still represents a stunning return for the 31-year-old. Between them, the rest of the squad have 21.

If he plays, Healy will win cap number 86, taking him fifth on the all-time list alongside Keith Gillespie and just five behind Mal Donaghy, who is Northern Ireland's most capped outfield player on 91.

Should Healy or Lafferty fail to strike, Oldham's Warren Feeney will fancy his chances of marking his international debut, which came nine years ago this week.

Whoever scores for Northern Ireland — let's hope there's a few — at least you will know when the goal or goals will arrive.

Belfast Telegraph


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