Soccer

Northern Ireland aiming to collect full points on trip to Albania

Rebecca Holloway (right) takes the congratulations after scoring for Northern Ireland in the win over North Macedonia at Seaview in a 2023 World Cup qualifier
Rebecca Holloway (right) takes the congratulations after scoring for Northern Ireland in the win over North Macedonia at Seaview in a 2023 World Cup qualifier Rebecca Holloway (right) takes the congratulations after scoring for Northern Ireland in the win over North Macedonia at Seaview in a 2023 World Cup qualifier

Uefa Women’s Nations League Group B1

Albania v Northern Ireland


(Friday, 4pm, live on BBC iPlayer & BBC Sport website)

REBECCA Holloway wants victory in Tirana to set up a grandstand Nations League clash against the Republic of Ireland next week.

The Northern Ireland Women’s team play Albania today in the penultimate game of their Group B1 campaign, which has yielded four points from four games to date.

The Republic are runaway group leaders with four wins from their four games, and play Hungary at Tallaght tonight before finishing against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Tuesday.

Holloway and co beat Albania 1-0 at Seaview in September and she wants a repeat today but warns that games are harder won away from home without support from Northern Ireland fans.

“We always want to focus on the first game, you don’t want to think about both games at the same time,” said the 28-year-old defender, who plays for Racing Louisville in Kentucky.

“So it’s just focusing on Albania and getting a result, and then looking to get a result in the second game too.

“The second game will be a lot harder, but if we can get a result against Albania, then it makes it easier for the second game at home.

“Away games are always harder because you don’t have many fans. You’re dealing with their fans and you don’t have that backing.

“Having the fans get behind you is like having an extra player.

“As much as you as a player go deaf on the pitch, you are definitely aware of the fans.

“If the other teams get momentum and have their fans behind them, sometimes that can influence decisions that refs make.

“So there’s that element and I do think playing away is harder compared to home,” she added.

“Albania were hard to break down at Seaview, they sat quite deep so it was hard for us to get more goals, and we definitely could have.

“They stopped us doing what we were trying to do, so now we are thinking about how we can break them down to get more goals.

“They were a good team, they defended well.

“It’s been a good campaign. It’s gone quickly, with all the games being so close together, and we’re still in a learning phase with the new manager (Tanya Oxtoby), so it’s just about trusting that process.

“But I feel that what we’re building, especially in the last few camps, has been good and I’m excited to find out what next year has in store.

“We want to get results in these last two games and end the year on a high,” added Holloway.

Tanya Oxtoby’s team has played both home games in the group, against Hungary and Albania, at Seaview but Tuesday’s game signals a first return to Windsor Park since April 2022.

Rachel McLaren has replaced Kelsie Burrows – who has withdrawn due to work commitments – in the Northern Ireland squad.