Mannus ready to step up

  • Last Updated: February 8 2013, 9:30 GMT

Alan Mannus hopes he has shown Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill that he would be a safe choice in high-profile games after keeping a clean sheet on his first international start against Malta.

Mannus hopes he's proved he is ready to become Northern Ireland's number 1.

The St Johnstone goalkeeper had won four caps before Wednesday night but all as a substitute, and has spent most of his international career on the sidelines since making his debut against Trinidad and Tobago in 2004.

The 0-0 draw at the Ta'qali National Stadium was a disappointment for Northern Ireland, but Mannus' performance was one of the high points, with the 30-year-old twice producing good saves to deny Malta captain and former Coventry striker Michael Mifsud.

The keeper played down his role, saying: "Personally I was happy to be given the chance to start and of course play the full game. I wasn't really tested to be honest, I don't think I had lots to do, but what I did do, I thought I did well.

"There wasn't a big crowd there or anything like that but I do feel I am ready for it if ever asked to step up to an international game which featured a big crowd.

"International football's always a different experience and I guess on this occasion it's definitely been a different one for me as I've got to play.

"I have been in and out of the squad over the last 10 years. I think I've sat on the bench and in the stands more than any other player in the squad over the last decade, so it's great to have the chance to play again.

"I feel I am ready, I am playing at the highest level I've played at and I've had the chance to play in big games like at Celtic, where you have 50,000 people at matches.

"There are other goalkeepers available besides (Lee) Camp and (Roy) Carroll, so I felt that I did okay and that I'd be ready to go in."

Canadian-born Mannus got his chance on Wednesday because of Carroll's illness, while Camp made himself unavailable for selection last year.

Despite waiting almost a decade for a full cap, Mannus revealed his dedication to the cause has rarely even been acknowledged.

"Michael hasn't really said anything to me about the loyalty," he said. "Nobody has ever really said anything to me about it, I just do it. I don't think this was any reward for loyalty, just a personnel thing."

It was Northern Ireland's first clean sheet since a 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands in August 2011, which is also their last win.

O'Neill is still looking for a first win after eight games in charge but Northern Ireland have at least proved difficult to beat, drawing four games in succession and conceding only three goals.

"It helps to have a Premier League back line," said Mannus. "It's a high-level back four, and to play in behind defenders from Manchester United, Fulham, Burnley and West Brom is great.

"They're all really experienced. That's a big deal for me and it makes international football that much more worthwhile."

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