Football: O’Neill delighted by Lafferty

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill paid tribute to Kyle Lafferty after his late match winner against Hungary secured the team’s first away win in four years.
O’Neill’s men went a goal down with 15 minutes to play when Tamas Priskin put the home side ahead but Niall McGinn levelled it before Lafferty’s strike decided matters two minutes from time.
Lafferty combined McGinn in the build-up to both goals and O’Neill was full of praise for the Norwich forward after the game.
“We needed someone to step up and Laff did that for us, I’m delighted for him,” said O’Neill after the 2-1 win.
“For the first goal he made a great run, a great piece of play. We needed something big to open the game up and Lafferty gave us that. Then he finds the winner as well.
“He gave us great energy all night but he needed that goal, he really did.
“When he’s focused and he’s right on it he’s an asset to any team and he showed that here.”
The winning goal was Lafferty’s tenth for Northern Ireland but his first in more than two years.
O’Neill is hoping the 26-year-old can use the strike to build his confidence and become the consistent goal scorer the team has lacked since David Healy retired.
“We need a big campaign from Kyle now,” said O’Neill. “He’s started great and now we need him to stay fit and keep producing.
“Kyle needs to give us as a centre-forward what someone like Gareth McAuley gives us as a centre-back or what Steven Davis gives us as a midfielder.
“We need a big campaign from all of those players.
“When you play away from home you need a focal point and that has to be Kyle because our other strikers maybe don’t have the experience Kyle does or aren’t playing at his level.”
Not only was the result Northern Ireland’s success on their travels since a 2010 win in Slovenia, it was also O’Neill’s second win in more than two-and-a-half years at the helm.
That record had become an albatross around the manager’s neck but he insisted it is not something he has dwelt on and said his belief in his players never wavered.
“I don’t dwell on things like that,” he said.
“This is a group of players that in the last campaign got very little in their favour. We’ve had very little luck but I hoped we could change that this time.
“We’ve hammered it home to them that we’ve never stopped believing in them. The performance and work-rate were there and I just felt there was a belief in the players I maybe haven’t seen before.
“The work-rate throughout the game was fantastic and they executed the game plan to a tee. But to have gone behind and then go on to win is huge for us, a really big start to the campaign for us.
“We believed we could come here and get something but three points is maybe more than we believed we could get.
“We’ve always been difficult to beat but now we have shown we can win from that platform.”

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