Football/Soccer

Gavin Whyte can go on to star for North insists forward ace Liam Boyce

Gavin Whyte missed a second half sitter on Monday night, but Liam Boyce believes the Oxford United ace can have a big future for Northern Ireland. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

HE may have spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to score in Monday night’s Uefa Nations League defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina, but Liam Boyce has backed fellow Irish League graduate Gavin Whyte to shine for Northern Ireland in years to come.

The former Crusaders winger made a stunning start to his international career, scoring with his first touch 106 seconds after coming off the bench against Israel last month.

Whyte failed to add to that debut strike when he hit the post from point blank range in the 65th minute of Monday’s game, but Boyce believes the Oxford United man can have a big future with the North.

“He has a God-given talent of pace that strikes fear into anyone,” said the Burton Albion striker, who started the game in Sarajevo.

“Not only that, he is brilliant on the ball. His first touch is good and he wants to take the ball on and drive at defenders. He doesn’t even wait for an overlap, he wants to drive at them.

“That’s what you want to see in a winger - taking people on, causing problems, getting balls in the box and taking shots. That’s what Gavin does.”

As a result of that defeat, Northern Ireland have no points from their three Nations League games to date.

However, Boyce is hopeful they can end the year on a high against the Republic of Ireland (friendly) and Austria (Nations League) next month.

“You need to perform and show Michael that you can do it at this level. That’s the only way you can have an impact,” he added.

“It’s strange having so many games but the more opportunities you get, the better.

It’s a great chance to show what you can do and force your way in.”

Meanwhile, it was yesterday confirmed that the Irish FA has invoked Fifa's five-day rule which will prevent Kyle Lafferty playing for Rangers against Hamilton on Sunday.

Manager Michael O'Neill said the Gers striker cited an Achilles injury when he withdrew from the squad at the last minute ahead of crunch Nations League games away to Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Irish FA released a statement which confirmed it will block Lafferty's participation in the Ladbrokes Premiership match against Accies.

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