Gillespie confident Irish will be back on track

October 13, 2008

Keith Gillespie insists Northern Ireland can recover from a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

However the Sheffield United winger believes it is vital they achieve back-to-back wins against traditional whipping boys San Marino to keep their hopes alive.

The first of those matches is at Windsor Park on Wednesday when the province will be looking to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat away to Slovenia.

With the Czech Republic losing to Poland, Gillespie maintains that Group Three is wide open.

He said: "We are still playing good football like we did in the last qualifying campaign (Euro 2008). This is a group where everybody is going to beat everybody so we still have to believe we have a chance.

"We've got San Marino home and away so we need to be taking six points from them.

"Nobody would have thought the Czechs would have one point from two games so it's going to be one of those groups. We are still there, we're still fighting.''

David Healy is determined to get up and running after scoring a record 13 goals in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

"To win a game is the most important thing but if I go a game or two without scoring there is no one more disappointed than me,'' said the Sunderland striker.

"I am my own biggest critic. Some people hide from the fact that they haven't played well but I go over everything in my head after a game.

"I think 'I should have shot there or headed that' and sometimes I can be a bit harsh on myself. I expect to score every time I play, whether it's San Marino or anyone else.''

San Marino are still looking for their first win in 18 years of competitive football.

Their only victory came back in 2004 when they defeated Liechtenstein 1-0 in a friendly and anything other than a defeat is seen as a resounding success.

Not surprisingly they went down 3-1 to Slovakia on Saturday but manager Nigel Worthington is refusing to take anything for granted even though England, Spain and Sweden have been beaten in recent years in Belfast.

Northern Ireland's confidence is fragile as they have taken only one point from three qualifiers.

He said: "It won't be as easy as people expect. I'll just be happy if we win 1-0 and get three points on the board.''

Manchester United defender Jonny Evans is sidelined through suspension after being shown his second yellow card of the campaign.

Evans' absence could see Gareth McAuley move into the middle with Chris Baird switching to right-back and midfielder Michael O'Connor being reinstated.