‘Lafferty key for N Ireland’

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:20

'Lafferty key for N Ireland'

While enduring some difficult spells in his international career, Lafferty is enjoying his most consistent spell to date, having already scored five times to help his country secure victories over Hungary, Greece, the Faroe Islands and Finland.
The only time he has failed to find the net in this campaign came in Bucharest in November, when Romania moved top of Group F with a 2-0 win, something he will be looking to atone for on Saturday.
While his manager Michael O’Neill will be hoping the 27-year-old can come up with a similar display which saw him fire a brace to brush Finland aside last time out, Iordanescu is planning another shutout.
“Lafferty is a very good player, a strong man,” said Iordanescu. “He has good quality and he can play across the full width of the pitch. He is able to make the difference in a game, especially when they play the ball from deep.
“We will see how we deal with him this time but we hope he will not find a path to goal this time. But be sure of the fact that we treat every player seriously, nothing will surprise us.”
Iordanescu, a 65-year-old whose diverse CV includes stints in military command and politics, also insisted Northern Ireland could no longer use the element of surprise to their advantage.
Having entered the draw as a fifth seed following their dismal 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, few expected O’Neill’s side to open their account with three straight wins this time.
“Don’t forget that until they came to Bucharest, Northern Ireland were top of the group,” he added.
“This is a team that cannot be talked of as a surprise, we must say they are confirmed as a team of quality.
“You see their squad and you have several Premier League players, several from the top tier in Scotland and others from the Championship. We are not afraid of anything but we know it will be a second tough match.”
Iordanescu, who was called out of retirement to take charge of the national side for the third time last year, is short of full strength for the encounter at Windsor Park.
Playmaker Lucian Sanmartean and veteran Razvan Rat are missing after failing to respond to a more unorthodox rehabilitation programme involving a Serbian healer known for her use of horse placentas.
Goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, striker Ciprian Marica and midfielder Cristian Tanase are also out.
“We are without five of our most important players due to medical problems,” the coach said.
“Rat and Sanmartean tried to recover with some late treatment in Serbia but are not okay. We come here in a special situation.”
Watch Northern Ireland v Romania on Saturday June 13 from 7.30pm live on Sky Sports 5.

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