Sanchez rests after rough ride

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The Independent Football

Lawrie Sanchez, who admitted this week that being in charge of Northern Ireland is "a roller-coaster ride", will use part of his enforced break to have a health and fitness check.

Sanchez said: "I am going to have three months off and rest. My heart can't take much more of this. I am going to have my heart checked as it has been a roller-coaster ride. But I have been pleased with the effort of the players. They know what is expected of them on and off the field." Sanchez closed his first year in charge on Wednesday night when his team forced a 3-3 draw with Austria in a World Cup qualifier.

While unlikely to qualify, Northern Ireland have made a marked improvement under the former Wycombe manager, who took over in February. In the 11 games since they have won three and drawn six.

Before Sanchez, Northern Ireland went 1,298 minutes without a goal but have now scored 14 in 11 matches. That has mainly been due to Preston striker David Healy. However, his future at club level is unsure.

He has rejected a new contract and the Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell, known to be an admirer of the former Manchester United forward, travelled to Belfast to watch the game. Northern Ireland's next qualifier is against England in March.

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