McCartney chasing points

Defender believes it's an important phase

McCartney: Points

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Northern Ireland's George McCartney believes it is already a crucial time for them in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

They face Slovenia away on Saturday before playing San Marino on Wednesday in Belfast and having only taken one point from two games so far, it is an important phase for Northern Ireland.

Build

Sunderland defender McCartney wants the team to build on the draw with the Czech Republic after their opening day defeat to Slovakia.

But with their away form poor - they have won only two out of 30 games - it will not be easy in Maribor.

"We have got to be looking at getting four points from the next two matches," he said.

"That would enable us to push up the group and put pressure on the top teams.

"We have got to start getting results in places like Slovenia. It was a tight game against Slovakia and we had a couple of chances.

"However, lapses of concentration in the second half cost us and our away form is a problem. We just need that bit of luck in important matches."

Buoyed

Meanwhile, West Brom midfielder Robert Koren will line-up against Northern Ireland with Slovenia buoyed by their recent form.

They have taken four points from their opening two World Cup qualifiers and tickets for the game at the 12,262 capacity Ljudski VRT Stadium sold out within six days.

Koren was handed the captain's armband by coach Matjaz Kek for the first two games and following their success has become a big star in his homeland.

He is now looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd after the stadium's renovation.

"It is a different feeling now," he said. "It is somehow easier to play there."