Goalscoring skipper Steven Davis looking for further Northern Ireland boost

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis is looking to take another step towards full fitness when Ian Baraclough’s side face Hungary in a friendly at Windsor Park on Tuesday night.

Davis is in line to start the match after coming off the bench to score his 13th international goal in Friday’s 3-1 win over Luxembourg, clocking just under half an hour in only his fourth appearance for club or country since December 1.

“It was really nice to get on the pitch and build up fitness,” Davis said. “It’s been a good week for me so far, hopefully I can get some more minutes tomorrow and take another step in the right direction.”

Davis has been limited at Ibrox since Giovanni van Bronckhorst replaced Steven Gerrard as Rangers boss in November, hit by niggling injuries which have seen him come in and out of the squad but play only five league minutes – a late substitute appearance in last month’s 5-0 win over Hearts – in almost four months.

“It’s always frustrating,” the 37-year-old said. “I’ve missed out on some big games and just when I felt I was getting myself back to a good position I’ve picked up another injury. It’s part and parcel of football.

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“The good thing is they’ve been minor injuries but it’s been two consecutively on the bounce.”

With his Rangers contract up in the summer, Davis knows there are a crucial few months ahead.

Baraclough may get fed up of questions about his captain’s future – an irritation he voiced again on Monday – but both he and Davis will recognise the midfielder’s club situation will be critical to how long he has left as a Northern Ireland player.

“I’ve not really thought about too much beyond the end of this season,” Davis added. “It’s the same situation I’ve been in these last couple of years in terms of contract talks only coming to fruition at this kind of stage.

“My main aim coming into this week was to try and get some fitness and play for your country another couple of times, come away with some good performances and help us prepare for the games in June. Then go back to the club for a really important run-in and then see how things are after that…

“You always reflect, the same as I said after the last campaign. It was about reflection and there were so many questions, would I retire or not?

“It was never really at the forefront of my mind. I think it’s important, especially as you get older, you can’t look too far ahead and it’s important I just finish this season strongly and go from there.”

Veteran Steven Davis’s plans are up in the air after the end of the season

A return in midfield for Davis will be one of a number of changes Baraclough is expected to make on Tuesday, having reflected on a victory which came despite a “mixed bag” of a performance in Luxembourg, where Northern Ireland started and finished brightly but allowed the hosts to dominate possession.

Paddy McNair is fit again after missing the Luxembourg trip through injury, while Bailey Peacock-Farrell has joined up after playing for Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend.

The likes of Ali McCann and Dan Ballard will also hope to get starts as Baraclough freshens up his side to take on a Hungary team who are preparing for a Nations League campaign which will pit them against England, Italy, and Germany this summer.

“We want a positive performance,” Baraclough said. “We’re going to make changes and we’re going to freshen it up a bit but we still have to have that intensity in game irrespective of opposition.

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“Hungary are going to be sterner test, no disrespect to Luxembourg, but we’re going to have to be bang at it.

“A team that has got into the top tier of the Nations League is a team to be feared for sure.”

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