Davis stays on his guard

Captain Steven Davis has warned Northern Ireland against "taking liberties" when they face Azerbaijan tonight.

Last Updated: 14/11/12 at 08:04 Post Comment   

Steven Davis (left): Geared up for Azerbaijan game

Steven Davis (left): Geared up for Azerbaijan game

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has warned his side against "taking liberties" when they face Azerbaijan but admits only victory will do.

The Southampton midfielder looking for a first win in World Cup qualifying at the fourth attempt.

Defeat in Russia and a home draw against Luxembourg represented a modest start to the Group F campaign, but things picked up in unexpected fashion when Michael O'Neill's side claimed a surprise draw in Portugal last month.

Three points against Berti Vogts' Azerbaijan side would leave them in good spirits heading into the new year, but while Davis is clear about his expectations, he does not advocate over-confidence.

"We know what we are capable of and we are confident of three points," said Davis. "But as always, we are Northern Ireland and we can't take liberties. We have to give 100% to get a result.

"They will see this as a chance to get some points on the board a well and I'm sure there'll be chances for both teams.

"But we had a big boost from the result in Portugal and this is a game we look forward to. We need to go and get those three points.

"Azerbaijan set the team up well against Russia and frustrated them for a long period. They might do the same again but it's up to us to stamp our authority on the game and get some goals."

For O'Neill, the fixture represents a final chance to end his first year in charge with a win.

In six games to date he has presided over three wins and three defeats and does not have another fixture booked in until March.

As such, he accepts the desire to register his first success is becoming an urgent one.

"It's time for us to put three points on the board. That players know that and I know that," he said.

"I'm desperate to get my first win as manager and to get the first win with this group of players.

"The players can move on very quickly, they go back to their clubs and refocus so it's probably the manager that carries a bad result around longer; I don't have another game to get it out of my system.

"It's hugely important that we start winning games now. We have a four-month break (between qualifiers) after this game and you want to go into that break on the back of a positive result and a positive performance.

"If we don't it will be a long three months for me."

Visiting boss Vogts has reported seven players unfit for duty tonight, while O'Neill will make late checks on Ryan McGivern (knock) and Aaron Hughes (cold) before finalising his starting side.


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