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Gavin Whyte: I've grown in confidence and am relishing playing for Northern Ireland


Gavin Whyte celebrates after slotting home Northern Ireland’s third in Luxembourg

Gavin Whyte celebrates after slotting home Northern Ireland’s third in Luxembourg

William Cherry/Presseye

Gavin Whyte celebrates after slotting home Northern Ireland’s third in Luxembourg

From the moment Gavin Whyte became a senior Northern Ireland international, he displayed an ability to make things happen, scoring 108 seconds into his debut.

Four years on, the winger continues to show that he can deliver when an opportunity comes his way. That was the case in Luxembourg on Friday evening when the second-half substitute took advantage of some awful defending to race clear and slot the ball past the home goalkeeper late in the game to net Northern Ireland’s final goal in a 3-1 friendly victory.

That was Whyte’s fourth international strike and sealed a morale-boosting victory in the first match of a new international cycle for the country.

Back in September 2018, the former Crusaders hero joyfully netted within two minutes of coming on against Israel in a 3-0 win at Windsor Park. Some introduction after coming on for his first Northern Ireland appearance.

He was also on target in Ian Baraclough’s opening match in charge in 2020 — securing a 1-1 draw in Romania for the team with an 86th-minute effort in a Nations League fixture in which the visitors played with 10 men from the 39th minute after a dubious red card for Josh Magennis.

Last year, Whyte was on the mark in a 3-0 success in Malta.

In Luxembourg there was a maturity to his finish and a feeling amongst his team-mates as he glided towards goal, thanks to fine performances of late for League One promotion chasers Oxford United, that he would do the business.

“It felt really good, scoring. To be honest it just felt good getting on the pitch, never mind scoring. We weren’t as good as we can be in the game but in the second half we dug deep and got the rewards for it,” said the 26-year-old.

“I feel sharp and I feel composed. At the moment I am playing higher up for my team Oxford and I think my confidence is growing. Getting on the pitch is the big thing. I don’t really mind where I am playing.”

Whyte, who is on a season-long loan with Oxford from Cardiff, hailed the spirit in the camp and showed a touch of class, handing over his shirt post-match to a delighted Northern Ireland supporter.

“It is something players should do. The fans pay money to come over and watch us and I thought they were brilliant and louder than the home crowd,” said Whyte, who is relishing playing in front of the Windsor Park faithful on Tuesday night versus Hungary in the next friendly. “It is going to be harder. We need to step it up a bit and if we play like I know we can, we will be alright.”

Captain Steven Davis, who also came off the bench to score, will be there. Whyte lauded the skipper, saying: “What a player. Even in training he is a pleasure to play alongside. You see how many caps he has won and what he has done in his career and it’s testament to what a guy he is.”

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