Continuing good form for Northern Ireland is the focus for Norwich City goalkeeper Michael McGovern
- Credit: PA
Clean sheets are proving key to Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualification hopes and Norwich City goalkeeper Michael McGovern is focusing on continuing his strong international form.
The 32-year-old hasn’t conceded in four of the five games in Group C so far – only being beaten in the 2-0 defeat to world champions and group leaders Germany.
Otherwise Michael O’Neill’s side haven’t conceded, winning three and drawing one of their other games to sit in second place and on course for a play-off place.
McGovern is now looking to continue that strong record away to Azerbaijan on Saturday (5pm UK time), having kept another clean sheet when playing the majority of a 1-0 friendly win over New Zealand in Belfast on Friday.
“We’ve had quite a lot of clean sheets lately and it’s great to see,” the former Hamilton and Falkirk keeper said.
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“It’s a real foundation for us and something Michael has wanted to see from us in games. Throughout the campaign, we’ve had that which is a real positive.
“We know if we can keep it tight at the back, we’ve always got goals in us going forward.
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“We work hard off the ball in training. We do work really hard on that aspect of the game. It’s a lot of work on shape, 11 v 11 and structured work on the training pitch.
“We’re not the most expansive team and we don’t commit everybody forward, but I think we pick and choose the right times to do it. That’s why we get goals on the break.”
O’Neill’s team won away in Hungary, Greece and the Faroe Islands during qualification for Euro 2016 – where they reached the first knockout round – and will need to draw on those victories in Baku.
“That experience will definitely hold us in good stead going into the game in Azerbaijan,” McGovern continued, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph.
“The campaign has been good so far. We have given ourselves a platform. It’s getting to the business end of the campaign and we’ve done it before by qualifying for the Euros.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do it again. That’s the good thing about it, we know what we’re dealing with.
“Obviously, it’s going to be difficult in Azerbaijan with the conditions and the time of year, but we won’t focus on the negatives.
“We will focus on the positives and what we can do.
“If we play to our maximum, I’m sure we can get a result.”