Worthy: Good start is crucial

Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington has told his side they must "get stuck in" against Serbia on Friday night to avoid being outplayed.

Last Updated: 24/03/11 at 18:27

Worthington: Outlined what is required

Worthington: Outlined what is required

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Despite going into the Euro 2012 Group C qualifier ahead of their opponents in the standings and with a game in hand, Worthington accepts Serbia have the personnel to win handsomely if his men allow them to play.

Worthington is able to call to mind a series of matches where Northern Ireland have played in the style he requires, but was disappointed by the way they slumped to a 3-0 defeat against Scotland last time out.

Now he has warned they must be tireless in Belgrade to avoid a repeat.

"We have got to look to get a good start right from kick-off, go and get stuck into them like we have done to teams in the past when we have got results against quality teams," Worthington said.

"You can name the games; Sweden away, Czech Republic home and away, Poland at home and away, Denmark at home, Slovenia away.

"They are the ones for me that are typical Nigel Worthington performances; hard working, fit for 90 minutes, give nothing up.

"That's how I want us to play all the time. For us to get a result here we need that. Anything less and Serbia will definitely take the points.

"Going back to Dublin against Scotland, the team lost its shape. Once you start doing that you are all over the place and you get heavily punished."

Serbia have endured a trying campaign thus far with disappointing results against Slovenia and Estonia, not to mention the crowd trouble against Italy which saw the match forfeited and home fans banned from the Crvena Zvezda Stadium for Friday's match.

Injuries to key players, including Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic, have further hurt their cause, but Worthington does not consider them a team in meltdown.

"I'm not falling into that one, about Serbia being in disarray," he said.

"You look at that squad and they've got a strong team. They've got exceptional players individually and as a group.

"They have a great team, great individuals in certain areas and I'm not getting sucked in at all."

One positive Worthington hopes his side can benefit from is the lack of crowd pressure on the match officials.

Due to the UEFA ban on Serbia fans, the only spectators will be a group of around 250 Northern Ireland supporters.

Serbia's support is renowned as some of the most intimidating around and Worthington believes their absence could be a positive.

"The training session we have tonight will be a resemblance of what to expect at the ground tomorrow," he said.

"From what I've researched in the last few months, what that might do is mean there will be no massive influence on the referee, no decisions through noise.

"All the professors and people who do this research say that home support has a big influence on referees. If that isn't there, hopefully that can be in our favour."

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