McGinn: NI system looks stronger
Niall McGinn hopes Northern Ireland's 0-0 draw in Malta has pointed the side in the right direction for the World Cup qualifier against Russia.
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Manager Michael O'Neill had hoped to secure his first win at the eighth time of asking but the visitors could not find a breakthrough, with Danny Lafferty seeing a first-half header ruled out for offside in Valletta on Wednesday evening.
O'Neill selected his team with next month's match in Belfast in mind, when Kyle Lafferty and Chris Baird are suspended.
Both were left at home and O'Neill gave Alex Bruce a debut in the holding role in midfield, with Walsall's Will Grigg winning his second cap as a lone striker.
McGinn said: "The biggest positive here is if Michael has found a system that will work against Russia, just because he has had that many young and new players available.
"Things have been going on behind the scenes, everyone has been working hard to try and get progress.
"And against Azerbaijan and Portugal the defence has been very good. We are bonding well as a team, we need to keep building on clean sheets if possible and build on that with some wins."
McGinn plays as a striker for Aberdeen but again played wide right on Wednesday night, although he did have one of his side's best chances when he drifted into the middle but scuffed a second-half shot from Aaron Hughes' pull-back.
The 25-year-old said: "Obviously I have been playing through the middle and I have enjoyed that for my club.
"It's another cap but the most important thing is I keep doing well and keep myself in Michael's plans. That's all any of us want to do.
"The central midfield was really strong and Michael told me when Brunty (Chris Brunt) got on the ball I could cut inside. I thought Brunty was great and his range of passing was good, and that can only be a positive."
O'Neill's record currently reads five draws and three defeats from eight games, with the last four matches being draws against Luxembourg, Portugal, Azerbaijan and now Malta.
The manager admitted his side were not good enough in the final third and had it not been for stand-in keeper Alan Mannus, who made two fine saves from Malta captain and former Coventry striker Michael Mifsud, they may well have lost.
"You want to win games, simple as that," said O'Neill. "We've had eight games, we've had five draws and three defeats. We've had some very difficult games in there.
"Of course it's a concern but at the end of the day the only people who can change that are myself and the players and I'm aware of that."