Blackpool striker’s success hasn’t shocked former Seasiders loanee

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Shayne Lavery’s bright start for both club and country has come as no surprise to his Northern Ireland teammate Dan Ballard.

 

The striker has scored four goals in his first seven games with Blackpool.

The 22-year-old’s latest strike at club level came against Ballard at The Den last weekend during Blackpool’s 2-1 defeat to Millwall.

Ballard, now on loan with the Lions following his season-long stint at Bloomfield Road last term, has since linked up with Lavery on Northern Ireland duty.

Shayne Lavery netted for Northern Ireland on Thursday night

Shayne Lavery netted for Northern Ireland on Thursday night

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Both were on the scoresheet for the first time in their international careers during Northern Ireland’s 4-1 World Cup qualifying win against Lithuania on Thursday.

Ballard said: “From such a young age, you could always see Shayne’s class and quality.

“You have seen how aggressive and fast he is and how hard he works, so to be on the flipside of that and play against him on the weekend, you can really feel it.

“It was a real struggle trying to contain that and obviously he got a goal, so I’m glad to have him on our side for these next few games because he can cause real issues.”

Ballard, who also played with Lavery for Northern Ireland’s Under-21s, believes the Championship is the ideal stage for the forward to progress his career.

“He has come in and done really well and I’m not surprised that he is scoring goals this early on, because he has always done that throughout his career,” Ballard added.

“I’ve been really impressed by Shayne, especially on the weekend, in terms of how tough he makes it for the opposition.”

Lavery began his career with Everton’s youth set-up before joining Linfield in 2019, scoring 47 goals in 77 appearances.

His return of 30 goals in all competitions last season, which helped Linfield win the double, earned him the Northern Ireland player and young player of the year awards.

Lavery will be looking to add to his tally when Northern Ireland face Estonia in a friendly on Sunday (5pm).

Their last game of this international window comes against Switzerland on Wednesday (7.45pm).

Ian Baraclough’s side sit third in their qualifying group for next year’s World Cup in Qatar, having claimed four points from their opening three games.

Switzerland sit in second on six points, while Italy lead the group on 10 points.

Elsewhere, Kenny Dougall was an unused substitute as Australia beat China 3-0 on Thursday before facing Vietnam on Tuesday, the game kicking off at 1pm UK time.

Tyreece John-Jules had hoped to make his first appearance for England’s Under-21s last night, but the Young Lions’ friendly against Romania was cancelled after two positive Covid-19 tests within the England U21 camp.

Lee Carsley’s men take on Kosovo in Milton Keynes in their opening qualifying game for the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship on Tuesday (7pm).