Players feel frustration too - NI defender Gareth McAuley

Gareth McAuley

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING GROUP F

Venue:
Windsor Park
Date:
Wednesday, 14 August
Kick-off:
19:45 BST
Coverage:
Commentary on BBC Radio Ulster; highlights on BBC1 NI at 23:35 BST; text updates & report on BBC Sport website

Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley has assured supporters that the players feel the same frustration over the side's recent run of poor results.

Michael O'Neill's squad go into Wednesday night's friendly with Russia seeking the first win of their World Cup Group G qualifying campaign.

"It's never nice, even worse when you're getting booed off by your own crowd," said the central defender.

"You take it to heart a bit but you can't carry it around with you."

"It's like you've let the whole country down really and nobody appreciates that you've run about and tried and you take that away with you.

"We've not been getting results when we thought we should have but it's about not getting frustrated," added the West Bromwich Albion player.

Meanwhile Derby County forward Jamie Ward is hoping he can kick-start his international career against the Russians at Windsor Park.

Jamie Ward
Jamie Ward has struggled with niggling injuries in recent years

The 27-year-old made his international debut as a late substitute against the Faroe Islands in August 2011, a match more likely to be remembered by fans as the team's last victory, but has made just three more appearances since then.

Manager O'Neill rates Ward highly but the player has been absent from a handful of squads and withdrawn from others due to a variety of niggles and fitness issues, denying him a consistent run.

He made his only start against Russia in Moscow last September and hopes to get another chance to showcase his skills in the return fixture in Belfast.

"I've obviously had a few injuries which have put my international career back a bit, but I've played a little under Michael and that's a start," he said.

"When I have been doing well at club level I have always had a little niggle coming into international games and that's the most frustrating thing of the past 18 months."

Northern Ireland have been seeking a reliable attacking threat since record goalscorer David Healy stopped being a first choice and O'Neill is still casting around for an attacking foil to target man Kyle Lafferty.

Martin Paterson, Will Grigg and Billy McKay are the other strikers in contention at Windsor Park but if Ward does get the nod, he believes he has plenty to bring to the side.

"I have a little bit of pace about myself, maybe a bit of attacking flair and I can score goals given chances," he said.

"Given the right service hopefully I can score goals. I don't really mind where I play to be honest, if I play wide I would prefer to play on the left side but I also enjoy playing up front in the two."

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