Belfast Telegraph

My pal Lafferty can set Norwich woe aside and show his class at Windsor, says Dallas

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Stuart Dallas has insisted that team-mate Kyle Lafferty will be in the right frame of mind and ready to rock Windsor Park if given a starting spot against San Marino tomorrow night.

Lafferty, in keeping with the majority of his time at Norwich, has rarely played for the Canaries this season, meaning match fitness is an issue for the Fermanagh man.

That didn't stop Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill from playing the former Rangers ace for an hour against the Czech Republic in Prague in last month's opening World Cup qualifier, which ended in a scoreless draw.

Whether the manager uses Lafferty from kick-off versus little San Marino remains to be seen, but Dallas is confident his pal will make a big impression if called upon despite his club woes.

"Kyle's upbeat. He's done well in training and he's looking forward to the game," said Leeds United ace Dallas, now considered one of Northern Ireland's key players.

"The environment he's in at Norwich at the moment maybe isn't the best because he's not playing, so it's probably like a breath of fresh air and a new lease of life when he joins up with the international squad.

"It's been tough for him but he's not one to sulk.

"If he doesn't break into the (Norwich) team before January, he needs to get out.

"I don't understand why he's not playing because everyone knows what he can do on his day.

"If he plays on Saturday night, he'll be determined to do as well as he can and there's no better way to do that than score a few goals."

Dallas has experience of kicking his heels on the sidelines at club level so can empathise with Lafferty more than most.

"It's frustrating when you're not playing. As a player you want to play every game, but it doesn't always work that way," said the ex-Crusaders hero.

"I knew I had to be patient. I was only left out for three or four games maximum.

"Kyle has had a tough run, but he's not one to shirk responsibility.

"He knows he has to keep his head down and work hard and I'm sure that's what he's doing."

While Lafferty has hit the net at Windsor Park, Dallas has yet to have that feeling, not even when he was playing for Crusaders against Linfield.

He would love to break his duck against San Marino.

"Growing up it was always something I dreamed of - first and foremost to score for my country, but also to score a goal at Windsor in front of a packed house would be incredible," said the 25-year-old Cookstown native.

"But I've always said it's not about me, it's about winning. We've got to win all our home games starting against San Marino and give ourselves a platform to build on.

"This will be our first home qualifier since we beat Greece to reach the Euro finals. The atmosphere was incredible that night and I'm sure it'll be good again on Saturday.

"The fans will be expecting us to go out and win the game because we've had success. We're now expected to go and beat the majority of teams we come up against.

"It's going to be one of those games where we have a lot of the ball and they might be hard to break down. We've got to be patient and positive. I'm pretty sure when we get one goal, we can go on and put more pressure on them."

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