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Tuesday 27 Feb 2024
Preview | ‘We are going out to win it’

Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team will be focused on victory when they face Montenegro in a UEFA Women’s Nations League promotion/relegation play-off in Belfast later today.

That was the clear message from Northern Ireland boss Tanya Oxtoby ahead of the game at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park (7pm kick-off).

Northern Ireland go in to the second leg of the play-off with a two-goal advantage following a 2-0 win over Montenegro in Podgorica in the first leg on Friday. The goals were scored by Lauren Wade and Demi Vance.

However, Oxtoby insists Northern Ireland will not be complacent in part two of the double header.

In her Manager’s View column in the matchday programme, she says: “We asked for a 90-minute performance focused on ourselves and our principles (in Montenegro), and we are delighted to have a two-goal advantage going in to tonight’s second leg.

“I said before the game in Montenegro that if we got our performance right then the result would take care of itself. Whilst the result gives us a slight head start going into the second game, our approach and standards will again be set extremely high.”

And she told media yesterday at the traditional eve of matchday press conference that she does not need to motivate her side for the second instalment of the two-leg play-off.

"It's a new game for us and we are going out to win it," Oxtoby insisted.

In her programme notes, she further points out: “I think you can expect more of the same tonight from Montenegro who will look to be organised with numbers behind the ball, try to soak up pressure and hit us on the break.

“However, if we show the patience and resilience that we showed in Podgorica, I have no doubt we will get the desired result.”

There is one change to Oxtoby’s squad for the game. Striker Emily Wilson has been ruled out through injury, so she has been replaced in the panel by 18-year-old forward Naomi McLaughlin.

It’s a first senior call-up for McLaughlin, who recently signed for Cliftonville Ladies from Sion Swifts Ladies. McLaughlin steps up from the Women’s Under-19s, for whom she played in a 1-0 friendly win over Greece in Belfast on Sunday.

Experienced defender Sarah McFadden limped out of Friday’s game at the Gradski Stadion early in the second  half, however she trained at the National Stadium yesterday and should be available for selection.

Although Montenegro created few chances in Friday’s encounter, they may throw caution to the wind in Belfast.

Their biggest threat up front is experienced striker Armisa Kuc, who plays her club football with Fomget in Turkey.

Team captain Sladjana Bulatovic, who also plays for Fomget, was subdued in the first leg but the midfielder is also capable of getting a goal.

The overall winner of the two-leg play-off will be in League B in the European Qualifiers phase of the Women’s Nations League this year, while the losing team will be in League C.

The game is being livestreamed on the BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport NI website.

And tickets are still available for the match via