NI manager Michael O'Neill heartened by Niall McGinn form

Niall McGinn
Niall McGinn

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill hopes Niall McGinn can continue his recent goalscoring form in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan.

The Aberdeen winger has found the net once in each of his club's last seven league matches and also scored in the 1-1 draw with Portugal in October.

"Niall is an example of what regular first-team football does for a player.

"He has the belief of his manager and he's repaid that trust by scoring goals - he has been excellent," said O'Neill.

The 25-year-old was voted SPL player of the month for October following his fine performances for Craig Brown's side.

"Niall was not getting regular first-team action at Celtic nor when he was on loan at Brentford, but now he's playing in a variety of positions along the front line and he's doing well.

"It's key that our players establish themselves regularly at first-team level and that in turn offers them a greater chance to shine at international level," added the Northern Ireland manager.

O'Neill is disappointed not to have the services of defender Jonny Evans for the Group F encounter in Belfast, but takes heart from the fact that he has several other players returning to the squad after injury.

"We want to build on our result in Porto and the availability of our top players is obviously key to that.

"The likes of Gareth McAuley, Shane Ferguson and Chris Brunt are back in the squad and hopefully I will have as strong a panel as possible to choose from.

"We will adopt a different approach from the counter-attacking system which helped us beat Portugal.

"We will select a more attacking line-up to face Azerbaijan - we'll try to force the game, hopefully convert the chances we create and then make sure we see the game out and secure the win.

"Azerbaijan were narrowly beaten by Russia in their last qualifier and they are a developing nation in footballing terms.

"They will be well prepared for this match as they have been together since last Tuesday - they'll be very much up for it and will see this as an opportunity to add to their points tally.

"It'll be a very difficult game but we'll be going all out to take three points."

Top Stories