Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern: We've learned to cope with the minnows

By Adam McKendry

Goalkeeper Michael McGovern says Northern Ireland have matured into a side that can win games against smaller nations and qualify for major tournaments.

That was no more evident than on Friday night when Northern Ireland were in excellent form as they dispatched Azerbaijan 4-0 at Windsor Park.

In past years those are the games Michael O'Neill's side traditionally struggled in - such as losing away to the Azeris in 2013, following a defeat to Luxembourg the same year.

But at the weekend they looked in complete control and now sit second in Group C.

"Traditionally we have struggled against the so-called smaller teams in the group, but we're starting to get better at dealing with that," McGovern said.

"We knew Azerbaijan were a lot better than a few years back. You could see that in their other performances and results in the group, so we gave them respect.

"Very professional and job done. That's how you could describe it. We're really happy with three points and how it went."

The Norwich stopper, who has conceded just twice in the campaign so far, also heralded the squad effort after several injuries ruled out a few big names.

Craig Cathcart missed out yet again due to a groin injury, while Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward both had to withdraw from the squad before the game.

"Over the last two or three years, momentum has been building and we just want to continue that," McGovern said.

"Everyone's feeling confident and that helps, so, if we are missing one or two key players, it gives others opportunities."

He also hailed Chris Brunt, making his first appearance for Northern Ireland in 13 months after a long-term injury.

"He's been fantastic and was a big miss, on and off the park," McGovern admitted. "We're delighted to have him back. He could have retired. But it's great that he has decided to continue to play international football."

Belfast Telegraph


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