Euro 2016 qualification 'within touching distance' - McAuley

Gareth McAuley
Gareth McAuley says his full focus is on NI's game against the Faroe Islands on Friday

Defender Gareth McAuley has assured Northern Ireland supporters that the squad will "not take their foot off the pedal" as possible qualification for Euro 2016 in France looms large.

Wins over the Faroe Islands and Hungary in the forthcoming double-header would secure a place at next summer's finals.

"If we lose focus in any way, it can come back and bite you," said McAuley.

"We are close but there are enough experienced people in our dressing room who know how cruel football can be."

Crucial double-header

The West Bromwich Albion player concedes that qualification is "within touching distance" ahead of Friday's match away to the Faroe Islands and the visit of Hungary to Belfast on Monday night.

NI confident for Faroes clash - Baird

Michael O'Neill's side lie second in Group F - one point behind leaders Romania and two ahead of third-placed Hungary.

Northern Ireland have never qualified for the finals of the European competition and the last time they qualified for a major tournament was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

"We are not thinking any further ahead than the Faroes game. A few of us have been out there before and come back with a draw when we were expected to win so we are fully focused," said the 35-year-old.

McAuley scored a sixth-minute goal in a 2-0 victory over the same opposition in October, getting on the end of Chris Baird's headed knock-on from a corner.

"Set-pieces are a massive part of modern day football and it was nice to get that early goal and settle the crowd down.

"We will be looking to get a fast start again, get on top and if we can produce the same sort of display, hopefully we can come away with the right result."

McAuley acknowledges the fact that the qualifier will be played on a 3G pitch in Torshavn is "not ideal".

Jonny Evans completed a move from Manchester United to West Brom last weekend
Jonny Evans completed a move from Manchester United to West Brom last weekend

"It plays different to grass but we have been practicing on it this week (at Bangor) and we don't seem to have had any problems."

The 51-times capped defender welcomed news of the arrival of his international central defensive partner Jonny Evans as his new club-mate at West Brom.

"Hopefully my partnership with Jonny can blossom at club level and the fact that we have played at international level makes it a little bit easier.

"The relationship is already there and hopefully we can forge a partnership. Everyone knows how good a player Jonny is and he's a great addition to our football club."