Above: Rachel Furness equalled David Healy’s goalscoring record - 36 strikes - for Northern Ireland while bagging a hat-trick in Skopje
Kenny Shiels insists on taking one game at a time, and he will doing that again tonight when the Northern Ireland senior women’s team face North Macedonia at Seaview.
Northern Ireland registered their biggest ever victory home or away when they defeated the Macedonians 11-0 in Skopje on Thursday.
But Shiels says his players must forget about that match and focus on tonight’s game instead in a front of a full house at the home of Crusaders (7 pm start).
In his Manager’s View column in the matchday programme for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier, he says: “Naturally, I was delighted with our performance in the first game of this double header with North Macedonia. The girls played some excellent football in Skopje on Thursday as they registered a record-breaking win.
“But we must segregate the two games because it’s going to be incredibly difficult to put in another performance like that, and to match such determination, quality and endeavour tonight.”
However, he further points out that his players are well prepared for the second encounter with North Macedonia.
My players show tremendous commitment and desire every time they pull on that green jersey and I am certain they will be up for it again in Belfast
He also says: “It’s going to be tough for our players because we have never been in this position before where we have come off the back of such a huge victory and now we are having to consolidate that. It will be hard but we will endeavour to do that.
“My players show tremendous commitment and desire every time they pull on that green jersey and I am certain they will be up for it again in Belfast.”
And he adds: “We have had an incredible year in 2021, qualifying for the UEFA Women’s Euros and starting our World Cup qualification campaign strongly, and it would be great to end the year with another victory under our belts.”
The Northern Ireland Women boss (above) may not be saying it, but he will want his side to score goals tonight.
The emphatic victory in Skopje, coupled with table toppers England’s 1-0 home win against Austria on Saturday, means Northern Ireland currently have a goal difference of 15 and the Austrians have a goal difference of 17 in European Qualifying Group D. Both countries currently have 10 points from five games.
Going forward goals in the bank could prove crucial, especially given that Austria are away to Luxembourg tomorrow and they will be expected to rack up goals in that match.
And next stop in Group D is an away game for Northern Ireland against Austria next April.
Shiels and his players believe North Macedonia’s players will be “wounded” after such a heavy defeat on home soil and will be keen to put up a much better performance at Seaview.
The visitors continue to be without some key players due to injury, however they may shuffle their pack and bring in younger players in the squad who will want to prove they can do better than their more experienced team-mates.
One Northern Ireland player who is very much looking forward to the game is attacking midfielder Rachel Furness, who equalled David Healy’s goalscoring record - 36 strikes - for Northern Ireland while bagging a hat-trick in Skopje.
Healy has already been in touch with Furness to say well done on notching so many goals at international level and equalling his tally. Shiels will be hoping Healy will be sending her a text after tonight’s match congratulating her on breaking the record.