Michael O’Neill keen for Kyle Lafferty to play more club football

first_img Lafferty scored seven times in nine games to help his country qualify for Euro 2016 – their first major tournament in 30 years – but has seen his club career stall at Norwich. Despite his heroics on the international stage he has managed only two substitute appearances for the Canaries all season. Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has welcomed interest in star striker Kyle Lafferty. Press Association The 28-year-old remains key to O’Neill’s plans next summer and managed 54 minutes in Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Latvia despite suffering an upset stomach. But his lack of game time has had a clear effect on his sharpness and with Leeds having registered an interest in taking Lafferty on loan, O’Neill is hoping that will soon change. Asked if he had discussed Leeds with the striker, O’Neill said: “I’ve had absolutely no involvement in that at all, but the most important thing for me is that Kyle gets playing. “It’s a hard situation. It’s November now and he hasn’t started a game for his club. That’s not an easy situation to deal with. “I thought he did extremely well given the circumstances. “But there’s no secret and he knows it himself, to be at his best he needs to be playing. “That applies to any player and I know that personally. There were times I played internationally when I wasn’t playing for my club and it’s a very difficult situation for a player to find themselves in.” Captain Steven Davis was the match-winner at Windsor Park, converting from close range after his initial header had been well saved. Having scored twice in the history-making win over Greece last month, he now has eight Northern Ireland goals to his name and five for club and country this season. Like so many of his team-mates, the Southampton midfielder has seen lean times in a green shirt but he admits things are currently better than ever. “It has been the best year in my career as a Northern Ireland player and it was fantastic to end it on a high with another win,” he said. “I have always said that I love playing in front of our fans at Windsor. They have always been great to me and they gave the team fantastic backing again. To get the standing ovation at the end was really special. “It was nice to score again but I won’t be getting too carried away. It was a great ball from Craig Cathcart and I got the rebound in. I had another few chances as well but to score again was great.” O’Neill’s side are now eight matches unbeaten and could find themselves moving to a new record high in the FIFA rankings when the standings update. They are currently 29th in the world, with a previous best of 27th under Lawrie Sanchez. “We wanted to keep the momentum going and keep that intensity and desire in our play,” said Davis. “We knew going into the game we were on a good run and we knew that the last Northern Ireland team to go unbeaten in eight matches was 30 years ago so we wanted to match that. “We will all keep in touch over the course of the next few months before we meet up again in March. “Now it is important now that everyone does well for their club. We want everyone to be coming into games next year with good fitness and feeling confident.” last_img read more

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Football searches for momentum amid coaching changes

first_imgRedshirt sophomore wide receiver Velus Jones runs for open ground in USC’s game against Arizona State. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)In the wake of freshman quarterback JT Daniels’ return and the transfer of control over the offense from offensive coordinator Tee Martin to head coach Clay Helton, Wednesday’s practice was a calm affair for the Trojans as the team prepared to face Oregon State.It was the second day of practice for offensive line coach Tim Drevno, and Helton said that the new coach is focusing on bringing a new emphasis on fundamentals. He also announced the introduction of graduate assistant Mike Goff as the new interim coach to fill out the staff ahead of Saturday’s game.On an otherwise lowkey day of practice, one statement stood out — the seniors made a choice as a group to ignore the typical practice of  “No-Pads-November,” which previously meant spending the last month of the season without pads on during any practice sessions. In the past, this was done in an attempt to ease players through the final few weeks of the season without injuries, and to help players suffering from any nagging soreness or tweaks to fully recover without the risk of agitating something in practice. “They want a sense of urgency, to have a great November, and I commend them,” Helton said. “They want to leave their legacy. They want to show young people exactly how you treat a November and how you practice.”This year, however, that won’t be an option, Helton said. The seniors decided that the team isn’t playing physical enough in games to earn the final month of rest in practice. Although there are only a handful of games left, he said that the seniors feel the team still lacks in physical play on both sides of the ball — the defense is struggling to wrap up tackles and make big plays, and the offense isn’t finding a way to power through hits and hard blocking up front.The decision to forego “No-Pads-November” came after the return of key players, including Daniels and senior captain and linebacker Cam Smith. On the defensive side, Smith’s return has offered a sense of calm for a team that struggled to find its rhythm without the leader at its core in past weeks. At middle linebacker, Helton said, Smith has an ability to direct traffic that comes with experience, not just talent. While Helton acknowledged that freshman linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV was “phenomenal” in his ability to step up well in Smith’s absence, wrapping up five tackles against Arizona State, he believes that the return of a senior leader will make a difference in the at defense.“It’s tough for anyone to sit on the sideline and watch but I had a lot of fun,” Smith said. “I got to see things from a different point and helped out some guys. We always talk about how you learn more when you teach, so I got to watch some guys and I think some guys made some huge strides.”The defense in particular is continuing to be forced to make adjustments due to injuries, especially in the secondary. Senior safety Marvell Tell played teacher again on Wednesday as he worked with wide receiver Ajene Harris on repetitions at the safety spot. Tell has been forced to work in this mentorship role throughout the season, as the secondary rotated through losses due to suspensions, academic issues and injury. Helton pointed out that this is a key area that the senior and captain has been able to step up for his team.Injury ReportFew changes were made to the injury report between Tuesday and Wednesday. Junior linebacker Jordan Iosefa suited up but remained out of practice after suffering an AC sprain. Linebacker John Houston is also limited after coming up gimpy with an ankle injury during team period on Tuesday.Redshirt senior tight end Austin Applebee remains sidelined, along with sophomore wide receiver Randal Grimes. The defense is continuing to suffer the brunt of major injuries, with junior defensive linemen Connor Murphy and Caleb Tremblay remaining out of practice, along with sophomore linebacker Levi Jones and freshman defensive back Chase Williams. A total of 15 scholarship players are on the sidelines for the Trojans headed into Saturday’s game.last_img read more

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Federer gets bragging rights over Serena

first_imgWith 43 Grand Slam singles titles (Williams 23, Federer 20) and more than US$200 million in prize money between them, the two 37-year-olds had welcomed the chance to face each other on the court in an official match for the first time.As it turned out, the tie was decided by the mixed doubles, after both Federer and Williams won their earlier singles matches.A capacity crowd of 14,064 turned out for the tie, and they saw Federer and Bencic largely capitalise on the mixed doubles inexperience of Williams’ teammate, Francis Tiafoe, to clinch the deciding rubber under the Fast4 format, 4-2, 4-3 (5/3).Williams, who seemed to be troubled by her right shoulder during the match but said it wasn’t a concern, was disappointed her doubles experience didn’t give the Americans the edge.However, even a rare defeat couldn’t take the gloss off the experience of facing Federer for the first, and almost certainly the only, time.“I was so excited and literally it was the match of my career,” she said.“Playing someone so great and that you admire so much in a match that actually means something.“It is really great and special to go against the greatest of all time.”Federer said he was thrilled to play against one of the few players with more Grand Slam titles.“I really enjoyed playing against Serena, what an honour and pleasure,” he said.“I was nervous returning because people talk about her serve so much.“It was great fun, she is a great champion, you see how focussed and determined she is and I love that about her.”The pair posed together for a selfie after the match.– ‘Great start to season’ –In his singles match, Federer scored successive wins to start the new season with an impressive 6-4, 6-1 victory over Frances Tiafoe.The world number three was challenged early by the 39th-ranked American, but then secured the first set with a break in the 10th game.Federer won seven games in succession and eight of the last nine as Tiafoe dropped away.It was another encouraging performance from Federer as he builds his preparation for the upcoming Australian Open in Melbourne, where he will be looking to win a third successive title and seventh overall.“It’s been a great start to the season for me, I found a way and I have to be happy right now,” Federer said.“It’s about staying fit and healthy and managing the game day by day.”Williams raced to an early 3-0 lead against Bencic, but then lost her way as the Swiss number 54 gained successive breaks of serve to secure the first set.Although the American was hitting more winners, she was also making more errors and looked in trouble until she broke Bencic in the 10th game to take the set and level the match.An early break in the final set to Williams was crucial as she used her big serve to hold Bencic at bay and win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.“It was definitely a relief,” Williams said of the result.“She played really well but I knew I could play better.”If Switzerland beats Greece on Thursday they will be through to the final, where they will defend the title they won last year.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000The pair posed together for a selfie after the match © AFP / TONY ASHBYPERTH, Australia, Jan 1 – Roger Federer took the honours in the much-anticipated mixed doubles clash with fellow great Serena Williams in what the latter described as the “match of her career” at the Hopman Cup in Perth Tuesday.In the biggest mixed doubles drawcard in the 31-year history of the tournament, in what is expected to be its final edition, Federer teamed with Belinda Bencic to win the match in straight sets under the Fast4 format and win the Group B tie for Switzerland.last_img read more

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