O'Neill wants home comforts

  • Last Updated: September 8 2012, 13:25 BST

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has promised a more attacking performance from his side as they look to kickstart their World Cup qualifying campaign at home to Luxembourg.

Michael O'Neill: Focus on Luxembourg clash

O'Neill's first competitive match in charge of the national side ended in defeat to Group F rivals Russia on Friday night, Viktor Fayzulin's opener and a controversial second-half penalty from Roman Shirokov seeing the hosts to a 2-0 win.

The visitors' game plan at the Lokomotiv Stadium was built around disciplined defence and hard work, with Kyle Lafferty handed the lonely task of leading the line on his own.

But while that was the pragmatic choice on the road in Moscow, O'Neill accepts they will have to be more expansive against Luxembourg on Tuesday.

FIFA's rankings place Luxembourg in 106th position, 23 places higher than Northern Ireland, but O'Neill knows his side will be expected to be on the front foot at Windsor Park.

"Obviously the game against Luxembourg is a totally different game to Russia," he said.

"It's a different mentality, a different approach to the one we had against the Russians. Who comes to Moscow and dominates possession? There are better teams than us who will go there and not dominate.

"I've said to the players we need to have the same work-rate and we approach that game in a very positive frame of mind.

"Hopefully we'll have a lot more of the ball against Luxembourg and we can benefit from that."

Sion striker Lafferty will be vitally important, as ever, to his side's attacking prospects and O'Neill has already vowed to give the 24-year-old more support.

The manager was impressed by Lafferty's endeavour in what at times appeared a lost cause and will almost certainly restore Dean Shiels to the starting XI as a foil.

Shiels and Lafferty were a dangerous pairing in the 3-3 draw against Finland last month but the former was sacrificed on Friday night as O'Neill attempted to stifle Russia in midfield.

"Tuesday will be a different game for Kyle, though I thought he was outstanding," said O'Neill.

"He was so many attributes for that position, so much to offer.

"His movement, his game intelligence, his ability to pull away.

"He was excellent but maybe we didn't find him with the right ball at times.

"He'll play with someone a lot closer to him in the next game and he'll play with wide players too. The onus is on to attack and be positive."

The overlooking of Shiels was not the only tough selection decision taken by O'Neill, who opted to demote Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp to the bench and hand Roy Carroll a first competitive start for six years.

Carroll, now 34 and plying his trade with Olympiakos, was frozen out by former Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington but O'Neill has now called on him to make the number one jersey his own.

"Roy was excellent for us," he said.

"People can forget Roy has a lot of experience of big games and other than Jonny Evans he will be our only player in the Champions League.

"There's great competition in there with Lee and Alan Mannus but he has an opportunity now to establish himself as number one.

"In many ways for Roy it's a bit of a second coming. I think he realises that and he did everything he could to show he can take that opportunity."

Derby's Jamie Ward was also handed a surprise start, his first at international level, deputising for the injured Shane Ferguson on the left side of midfield.

Again, O'Neill was positive with the reaction.

"Jamie is only really getting his international career started, he didn't let me down at all," the manager said.

"He probably wasn't playing in his most natural position but he's shown for his club he can play in wide areas.

"I thought he did very well, worked hard, kept his discipline. We're delighted with him."