Brunt looking for an end to Northern Ireland’s winless run
Michael O’Neill’s side facing a tough assignment against Russia at Windsor Park
Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt. Photograph: Inpho/Presseye/Darren Kidd
Chris Brunt is desperate for Northern Ireland to deliver a long overdue victory at Windsor Park tomorrow.
The team’s winless run currently stands at a concerning 12 matches, half of which have been on home turf.
Indeed, they last triumphed in Belfast in August 2011, when then boss Nigel Worthington led his side to a 4-0 defeat of the Faroe Islands.
His successor, Michael O’Neill, has yet to experience victory in eight matches at the helm but has two more chances coming up, with Russia’s visit tomorrow followed by that of Israel four days later.
And Brunt, who admits his frustration at home draws to Group F minnows Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, knows how important it would be to kick off that double header in a positive fashion.
“We need to get that win,” said the West Brom midfielder.
“We have been improving under Michael and we have been difficult to beat but now it’s about getting that first win to kick-start things.
“Results at Windsor Park have been frustrating, of course, because we could be sitting with four extra points.
“We got a point we probably didn’t expect to have when we drew in Portugal, so it’s swings and roundabouts, but we’d rather be sitting here with two wins from the home games. Looking back on it, that’s definitely what we should have.
“On the back of the Portugal result we’d have liked to build on that but the two home games have let us down a bit really.
“We’re not conceding many goals but you have to go the other way as well and try to win games and unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that. Friday night would be a good time to start.”
Russia are hardly the ideal opposition for a side looking to reverse a morale-sapping sequence of results. Fabio Capello’s team have maximum points from their first four matches in World Cup qualifying and have yet to concede.
Northern Ireland have a 24-man squad available for the Russia match, with suspended duo Kyle Lafferty and Chris Baird linking up with the group ahead of the Israel fixture.
Of the initial squad, only Derby forward Jamie Ward was unable to travel and was replaced by Aberdeen’s Josh Magennis.
The first couple of training sessions have not led to any additional withdrawals.