Belfast Telegraph

We'll show no fear and go on attack, vows Shiels


Called up: Kelsie Burrows has been handed an opportunity
Called up: Kelsie Burrows has been handed an opportunity

By Stuart McKinley

Kenny Shiels has declared that Northern Ireland will approach their clash against Norway with no fear - despite going down 6-0 against the former World Cup winners just 10 weeks ago.

That's because he is convinced that his women are now more prepared than they were for his first match in charge.

Since hitting Northern Ireland for six at Seaview, the Norwegians have gone on to put seven past Belarus and score 13 without reply against the Faroe Islands.

That both puts Northern Ireland's result into some kind of perspective and shows the size of the task facing them in their Women's Euro 2021 qualifier in Stavenger this evening.

The free-scoring nature of a Norway side that has players playing for clubs in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain - including Barcelona's Caroline Graham Hansen, who has scored five more goals since her hat-trick against Northern Ireland - won't see Shiels compromise his principles.

Norway will want to put on a show for the home fans in their first home game since the World Cup in the summer and Shiels has prepared the girls in green, buoyed by their performance as they claimed a 2-2 draw in Wales days after the loss to the Norwegians, to attack their opponents, who are currently ranked 12th in the world.

"We will go head-to-head with Norway and try to take them on," said Shiels.

"I would rather do that than sit in and defend for 90 minutes and hope that we can keep them out because if we did that we wouldn't learn anything.

"That's what we did when we played them at home and it helped prepare us for the next game against Wales. Now that we've had those two games and that learning experience, I expect us to be more competitive.

"We'll play as freely as we can and the way that we have been trying to instil. We'll keep going with that rather than going back.

"I think that we are in a better place to take on Norway. We've been trying to build confidence so that we can go and perform and we will give it all we've got.

"We certainly won't fear them. We will try to get at Norway and we want to perform well and then take that into the game against Wales."

Shiels has refreshed his squad. Lauren Perry and Kelsie Burrows, who recently joined Blackburn Rovers from Linfield Ladies, have been called up along with their former team-mates Casey Howe and Caitlin McGuinness, plus Toni-Leigh Finnegan from Cliftonville Ladies and Glentoran Women's Irish Cup-winning hero Emma McMaster.

When naming his starting XI Shiels is likely to go with experience, with Julie Nelson and Ashley Hutton both having over 100 caps and Sarah McFadden, Rachel Furness and Simone Magill, as well as playing in England, playing over 50 times.

The future, however, is just as much in the mind of the manager as the present with seven teenagers in the squad and goalkeeper Becky Flaherty expected to add to her solitary cap.

"When it came to the first double-header I didn't go down the road of dipping into the Under-19s," said Shiels. "I wanted to give them the best chance to qualify from their tournament. They managed to do that."

Norway vs N Ireland

Euro 2021 Qualifier

Viking Stadion, Stavanger, Tonight, 5.00pm

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