Belfast Telegraph

Windsor the key to Northern Ireland reaching more finals: Josh Magennis

By Graham Luney

Josh Magennis has warned his team-mates that there is no margin for error in the huge clash at home to Azerbaijan tomorrow.

If the visitors can mastermind a victory they would strengthen their grip on second place in Group C and move six points ahead of Michael O'Neill's side, whose World Cup hopes would start to look more distant.

Northern Ireland's home record was always going to determine their fate in a very tough group that includes World champions Germany.

Many fans view this showdown against Robert Prosinecki's much improved side as a must-win encounter and Bangor man Magennis accepts that if Northern Ireland are to build on the stunning performances that fired them into the last 16 of the Euro 2016 finals then they will need to put their opponents to the sword at Windsor.

"For the progression of Northern Ireland football and to consistently go to tournaments and push on, then these are must-win games," warned the Charlton ace.

"To prove we deserve to go to championships we have to beat teams who come to our home. We have to make it a fortress. Azerbaijan are no different and we'll be looking to beat them.

"We won't be playing for a point, we're going into games saying we need the win. If we want to make a legacy and push on, these are the games we need to win to push on in the group.

"We've put ourselves on a good platform and we know we'll go to seven points if we beat Azerbaijan and put us second ahead of a four-month break.

"If we are resilient in the games we need to be resilient in, there's no reason why we can't stay second until the end of the group. But you've got to win home games. There's no way around that.

"I don't think Norway's going to be an easy game, it's going to be a tough game at home to Germany, so it will be ridiculously hard, but it's important we make Windsor a fortress the way we did in the last campaign.

"We've managed to do it so far this campaign and in recent friendlies so it's massively important we try and continue the winning streak."

The former Kilmarnock and Aberdeen man was unleashed on Germany and impressed during the 2-0 loss last month. O'Neill knows the man who has earned 25 caps can rise to the occasion against the toughest of rivals.

"It was great to have the manager's confidence," he added. "Michael and I have always had a close relationship and I've always felt he has believed in me and helped me with my career.

"It's been great and I can't ask for any more than to have your manager's trust, but the only way you can repay him is with performances on the pitch.

"The pressure is on me to deliver and hopefully I've been able to do it so far. It was good to play in the double-header. It was good to get the win against San Marino at the opening of the new stadium. Even though I started the game against Germany, it was made clear it was a squad effort because of the amount of possession they'd have and the amount of running we'd have to do.

"It's always nice to start, but you can't rest on your laurels and take it for granted that you're going to play for your international team. It's about trying to do as much as I can at my club and hopefully that's enough to put the thought in Michael's mind to go with me again."

Belfast Telegraph


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