Belfast Telegraph

Why Gavin Whyte deserves immense credit for Estonia display, explains Northern Ireland boss

Gavin Whyte was handed his first competitive start for Northern Ireland.
Gavin Whyte was handed his first competitive start for Northern Ireland.
Goal threat: Gavin Whyte

By Paul Ferguson

Michael O'Neill praised Gavin Whyte's tenacity during his first competitive international start against Estonia on Saturday night.

The 23-year-old formed an Irish League old boys front three alongside fellow former Crusaders ace Stuart Dallas and ex-Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce, but found it difficult with a lack of service and tight marking from the Estonian defence.

However, his performance improved in the second half and he always looked dangerous with the ball at his feet - which was the main reason O'Neill decided to keep the Oxford United winger on the pitch for the entire match.

This time last year, Whyte was still a Crusaders player and had just returned from an international tour of Central America without playing a single second of football, but on Saturday he won his fifth Northern Ireland cap.

O'Neill, who is aware of the interest in his services from English Championship teams, said: "I was pleased with him, especially in the second half he did very well.

"It was tough for him in the first half, playing against experienced international players.

"He's only played one season as a professional, in League One, and I thought second half he did some really good things.

"The reason for keeping Gavin on the field is he has a goal in him. He has always had that at whatever level he's played at. He's already showing that at international leave and I was really pleased.

"I've been in that position myself as a young player and it's hard not to go under.

"He didn't go under so he deserves enormous credit. It was a big test and I thought he passed it very well."

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