Belfast Telegraph

We need more from Kyle Lafferty now, says Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

By Julian Taylor

Michael O'Neill lauded match-winner Kyle Lafferty after he inspired Northern Ireland to a first away win in four years in Budapest.

Lafferty has long been a mercurial presence for his country, offering so much promise but too often failing to deliver.

Indeed, he came into the Euro 2016 opener against Hungary having not scored in more than two years.

But he was the hero on this occasion, producing a fine run and assist for Niall McGinn to pull Northern Ireland level with 10 minutes to go and then scrambling home from close range to nick a 2-1 win in the closing moments.

O'Neill has been critical of the Norwich forward's discipline in the past but he was glad to see the 26-year-old deliver at a crucial time.

"We needed someone to step up and Laff did that for us, I'm delighted for him," said O'Neill.

"For the first goal he made a great run, a great piece of play. We needed something big to open the game up and Lafferty gave us that. Then he finds the winner as well.

"He gave us great energy all night but he needed that goal, he really did. When he's focused and he's right on it he's an asset to any team."

Lafferty now has 10 international goals to his name and O'Neill is hoping he can grow into the role of regular scorer – something Northern Ireland have been crying out for since David Healy's heyday.

And in looking for further inspiration, O'Neill did not have to go too far afield.

"We need a big campaign from Kyle now. He's started great and now we need him to stay fit and keep producing," said O'Neill.

"Kyle needs to give us as a centre-forward what someone like Gareth McAuley gives us as a centre-back or what Steven Davis gives us as a midfielder.

"We need a big campaign from all of those players.

"When you play away from home you need a focal point and that has to be Kyle because our other strikers maybe don't have the experience Kyle does or aren't playing at his level."

Belfast Telegraph


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