Chris Baird has called for Northern Ireland fans to get behind the side, and under-fire manager Nigel Worthington, as they look to end their Euro 2012 qualification campaign on a high.
Back-to-back defeats to Serbia and Estonia last month left them with only the slimmest mathematical hope of reaching the play-offs after dropping to fifth in Group C. Attention has instead turned to Worthington's future and whether or not the Irish Football Association will offer him a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the year.
A 4-1 defeat in Tallinn last time out dealt a heavy blow to Worthington's hopes of extending his four-and-a-half year reign, but they have a chance to exact revenge against the same opponents at Windsor Park on Friday before a trip to Pescara to face Italy four days later. "This is an important match for us and for Nigel," Baird said.
Some travelling fans called for Worthington's head after the defeat to Estonia but Fulham defender Baird is hoping for a positive reaction this time.
Baird added: "The fans know that it was three mistakes for three of the goals against Estonia and that's what really killed us.
"They aren't silly, they know it was one of those nights and I even thought we played well at times. Let's hope the fans come on Friday and get behind us."
One man who has entirely failed to get behind Worthington is his predecessor Lawrie Sanchez. He has come out with some scathing views on Worthington's tenure and even gone as far as saying as he would consider a return to a post that is not yet vacant.
A series of senior players have responded by throwing their support behind the manager and Baird has joined that chorus.
"A lot of guys have said they back Nigel and I'm one of them," Baird said.
"He has been fantastic for us. He has been great for our country and great for the players who have worked under him. He's always stuck by us and, personally, he backed me and picked me for big games. He has everyone's respect, he's a good coach and I back him."
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