McLaughlin eyes San Marino success
Fleetwood full-back Conor McLaughlin says Northern Ireland will be kicking themselves if they do not get something from their 2018 World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side host minows San Marino at Windsor Park, Belfast, on Saturday (7.45pm).
Northern Ireland are the favourites to beat San Marino in their Group C game after reaching the knock-out stages of Euro 2016 in the summer.
And McLaughlin, who missed Town’s 2-0 Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Oldham due to the rearrangement of the Bristol Rovers game, says the expectation is higher after their performance at the Euros and an opening group stage 0-0 draw against the Czech Republic in Prague.
Despite the pressure being on for the game on Saturday the 25-year-old says it will be off when they head to Hanover to face Germany on Tuesday.
McLaughlin said: “The expectation is higher and that is the way we want it, we want to go into games expecting to win, which we are at the minute.
“It is better to be like that than the other side. We wanted to start well, we didn’t exactly play at our best but we got a good point away in the Czech Republic, hopefully we can kick on from there.
“We will expect to beat San Marino, if we don’t we will be kicking ourselves so hopefully we will do the job then.
“Going to Germany nobody expects us to win so the pressure is off us really.”
McLaughlin says picking up points at home is crucial if Northern Ireland want to make it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
He also anticipates an even better atmosphere than they received in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign now that the Windsor Park redevelopment project has been completed.
He said: “The lads are buzzing now, especially now the stadium is completed.
“The noise in the last campaign was unbelievable and that was with only half the stadium seated.
“So to have the full stadium ready now and with extra fans it will be unbelievable.
“We showed in the last campaign in the home games get as much points as possible and get a few results away from home you are more or less there and have a chance of qualifying.
“We want to pick up as many points at home as we can. We have got to make sure our heads are on it.
“It is important to get a good win in a double header and we will be going all out to win the game.”