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Tuesday 17 October 2017

O'Neill eyes momentum for North

Northern Ireland are relishing a rare chance to focus on attack tonight against the Faroe Islands, according to manager Michael O'Neill.

O'Neill's side do not go into many matches with a heavy expectation of victory but tonight's home clash against a side ranked 179th in the world, nestling neatly between Chinese Taipei and the Turks & Caicos Islands, is one such occasion.

Expectations are even loftier given last month's impressive 2-1 away win over Hungary in their first Euro 2016 qualifier, but O'Neill accepts this will be a much different challenge. He will ask, as always, for defensive rigour and tactical discipline but has tailored this week's training sessions firmly towards breaking down the opposition rather than holding them off at the other end. And it is a shift in emphasis that has gone down well in the squad.

"There has been a lot of focus on our attacking play especially, our approach has been slightly different," he said. "Obviously when you are doing attacking play the players enjoy it more than the other side of the game so it's been a really good week. "The mood in the camp is excellent. We anticipate having more possession than we have had in our recent away games and given that we will have more possession we hope to turn that into opportunities."

"You just can't go out and play off the cuff and play in a cavalier fashion. But our attacking players often have to do a lot of work off the ball. This is an opportunity to show the other side to their game." Home comforts may be hard to come by at Windsor Park though, with two stands having been demolished as part of the ongoing redevelopment.

Capacity has been reduced to 10,500 as a result but O'Neill is more interested in the new and improved playing surface.

"The pitch is always the priority for me. It's great. The surroundings pale into insignificance if I'm honest and I think the players certainly enjoyed the training on it," he said. "I don't think the surroundings will be a huge factor on the game. Once the game starts I think the players will be focused on what is going on on the pitch.

"I still think there will be a great atmosphere. The fans will be huge for us on a night when the expectation is higher than it has been and we have to rise to that." N IRELAND v FAROE IS, SKY SP 5 (KO 7.45)

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