Striker concerns for Worthington

06 September 2011 10:00

Nigel Worthington is hoping his goal-shy Northern Ireland side can do enough to overcome Estonia on Tuesday night but admits their lack of proven strikers is a problem.

Worthington's side have mustered only seven goals in as many games in Euro 2012 qualification, with five of those coming in two matches against the lowly Faroe Islands. Nothing less than victory in Tallinn will keep their play-off hopes alive, but the absence of first-choice centre forward Kyle Lafferty with a calf injury leaves Worthington light up front.

"Northern Ireland's biggest concern is the front, when Lafferty is out we haven't got another big striker and that's a situation which probably should have been addressed some five, six or even 10 years ago," said Worthington.

"We haven't got a Gerry Armstrong, we haven't got a Norman Whiteside, we haven't got a Billy Hamilton. If you look at those three strikers, in 1982 or 1986, you were able to score goals. But we are not prolific goalscorers and we are not going to score two or three goals against quality sides."

David Healy, Northern Ireland's record scorer, has started the last two games but without an international goal since October 2008 and on the fringes at Rangers, he is far from his best.

Other options include Warren Feeney, currently plying his trade in League Two with Plymouth, and Josh McQuoid, who has yet to score for his country.

Worthington knows the odds are against his side turning in the three wins they are likely to need if they are to finish second, but he has been heartened by the mood in his squad.

"There's no tension or pressure here. There's a very good spirit within the group," he said. "Of course the aim is still to qualify. If you look at the group there are three or four teams looking for the second place so there's all to play for and we'll be doing that."

Captain Aaron Hughes, meanwhile, has called for his side to adopt a more aggressive style than usual. The Fulham defender does not advocate all-out attack from the whistle but believes risks may have to be taken to secure three points.

"For the first time ever I have to say this is a must-win game," Hughes said. "When you get to this stage in the competition you have to win. We know we've got to go and try to win it and try and be positive, but not in a gung ho way. But if we get to the last 10 minutes and if it's 0-0 you know you have to throw a bit of caution to the wind."

Source: PA