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Michael O’Neill wants to get back to winning mindset

Northern Ireland have won only one of their last eight games.

Michael O’Neill insists getting a win over Israel is crucial (Liam McBurney/PA)
Michael O’Neill insists getting a win over Israel is crucial (Liam McBurney/PA)

Michael O’Neill has emphasised the importance of putting a win on the board when Northern Ireland face Israel in a friendly on Tuesday.

O’Neill’s team were left frustrated on Saturday when they dominated their UEFA Nations League opener against Bosnia & Herzegovina only to find themselves defeated 2-1.

That result leaves them with only one win from their last eight games, and O’Neill is wary of losing the momentum they built in qualifying for Euro 2016 and coming close to making this summer’s World Cup.

The manager is now hoping to see a similar performance to the one against Bosnia, but with a different outcome.

“We’d like to see the same level of performance, the same intensity and same running power within the team and also a victory,” he said. “We need to get back into that mindset.”

Saturday’s defeat puts Northern Ireland on the back foot in their Nations League group before trips to Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina in October, and O’Neill wants his side to pick up some confidence before then.

“It is time for us to get back to that habit of winning games which is a good habit,” he said.

“We have two very difficult games in October and it will be difficult to win those games so it is important we do everything possible to try and beat Israel.”

Michael O’Neill is considering changes (Liam McBurney/PA)

O’Neill will freshen up his team but said he is not in a position to make wholesale changes.

“It gives me an opportunity to look at some aspects of it, but we’re not in a position where we can just change nine players,” he said.

“To do that we’d need to ask players to play out of position, and when you bring players in you want to give them the best chance to do well, so it’s important to put them into a team which is cohesive and as strong as possible.”

One talking point will be who starts in goal. Bailey Peacock-Farrell made his first competitive appearance at the weekend but found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons with Bosnia’s decisive second goal the result
of a horrible mix-up with Craig Cathcart.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell made his debut against Bosnia and Herzegovina (Brian Lawless/PA)

O’Neill may make a change but said the goal would not come into his thinking.

“It was good for me to get Bailey on the pitch,” he said. “He will be disappointed with the nature of the second goal but one thing I’ve noticed is he’s already left it behind. He’s not the type of guy who is going to dwell
on things.

“He’s in a position at this club where I imagine he’s being pushed every day and that’s good for us.

“Any changes that are made will not be a reflection on performance but just on giving a bit of freshness to the team.”

Gavin Whyte (second left) hopes for a debut against Israel (Liam McBurney/PA)

Gavin Whyte, meanwhile, is pushing to make his debut. The 22-year-old midfielder only began playing full-time football this season after joining Oxford from Crusaders, and O’Neill said the difference was noticeable already
compared to his first call-up in May.

“He’s training really well, far better than he did in the summer,” he said. “I already see a lot of development with him going into full-time football.

“Whether he gets the opportunity tomorrow we’ll see but I do feel we have another player who is going to soon be a full international player.

“When he first came in he was a little bit timid, a little bit light but he doesn’t look like that now, he looks sharp.”

Rangers forward Kyle Lafferty missed Monday’s training after taking a knock on Saturday, but O’Neill said he was simply being rested.

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