Faroes tussle is 'bigger than Italy' for Northern Ireland

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The Independent Online

Northern Ireland's manager, Nigel Worthington, wants his side to build on their impressive start to the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign when they meet the Faroe Islands on Tuesday.

A goalless draw against the former world champions Italy at Windsor Park increased the feelgood factor in the camp following the victory over Slovenia last month. However, with the Faroes managed by the former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr, Worthington expects a stiff test.

He said: "I see this game as a bigger one than playing Italy. Why? They have a British manager, who knows the British game and knows our players. If we can get three points on Tuesday that would be a fantastic start for us in the group. It keeps the door wide open for us. What we have to do in that game is go and do a good professional job."

It could have been even better for Northern Ireland had David Healy found the target instead of the wrong side of the post in the first half following a cross from Chris Brunt. Then, as time was running out, Steve Davis was denied by goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, who made a good block.

Healy has not scored for two years for Northern Ireland and remains out of the picture at Sunderland. He has Worthington's backing, however.

"I was blowing David's header in," Worthington said. "It was a great ball in by Chris Brunt. The little man found a little gap but he is justgoing through a lean spell. I will carry on supporting him because he is working hard in training and looks a lot sharper."

Italy dropped their first points after beating both Estonia and the Faroe Islands but their coach, Cesare Prandelli, had no complaints about the result. He said: "Northern Ireland are always difficult opponents at home. We had a lot of chances but suffered some bad luck with our finishing. But I am pleased with the work the team put in. Our mental approach was strong and Northern Ireland got a big advantage from the crowd. It was a fair result, I feel."