Kyle Lafferty: Michael O'Neill gets best out of me

Kyle Lafferty has scored 14 goals for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's goal hero Kyle Lafferty has described international boss Michael O'Neill as the best manager he has played under.

The 27-year-old striker, on loan at Rizespor from Norwich, is spearheading his country's impressive push for a place at Euro 2016 in France.

He scored both goals in Sunday's 2-1 win over Finland in Belfast.

"What Michael says inspires me and gets me up for the games. I'm buzzing playing for him," said Lafferty.

"He is the best manager I have played under and gets the best from me. He pulls me to one side before every game."

Lafferty has been named man of the match in all four of Northern Ireland's Group F wins - away in Hungary and Greece and at home against the Faroe Islands and Finland.

Following his sweetly struck volley and deft header against the Finns, Lafferty, who has also played for Burnley, Rangers, Sion and Palermo, sits on five goals from five qualifiers.

And Northern Ireland find themselves on 12 points from a possible 15.

In O'Neill's first campaign, Lafferty contributed more red cards (one) than goals (zero), as they finished one point above bottom-placed Luxembourg in their World Cup qualifying group.

"The last campaign I let everyone down, but Michael had a word with me and it really hit home," said the striker.

"I am probably glad he did that. The trust he has shown in me means a lot. I don't like calling myself a hero, I think all the boys were heroes out there.

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty in action against Sakari Mattila of Finland
Kyle Lafferty is second on Northern Ireland's all-time scoring chart with 14

"I scored two goals which is brilliant for me personally, but if I don't score another goal in the campaign and we qualify I will be happy enough."

A place in France next summer would be a remarkable achievement for a side who have never reached a European Championship before and last made the World Cup finals in 1986.

But belief is starting to turn to expectation.

"We can't get ahead of ourselves but if we keep playing like we are now, it would be a disappointment if we didn't get there," added Lafferty.

"The next game in June is going to be massive for us against Romania because it is a top-of-the-table clash."

Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward competes against Jere Uronen of Finland
Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward competes against Jere Uronen of Finland

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