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Steven Davis not focused on records ahead of Bulgaria clash

Steven Davis not focused on records ahead of Bulgaria clash
© Reuters
The 36-year-old Northern Ireland captain will move clear of Peter Shilton's British caps record in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier.

Steven Davis wants only one thing from his record-breaking 126th appearance for Northern Ireland – a victory over Bulgaria.

The 36-year-old midfielder will move clear of Peter Shilton's British caps record in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier, but Davis said the only way to mark it properly would be with three crucial points.

"We have to get back to winning ways and find a way to win the game," he said. "It's a big landmark for me personally but my focus is on the game."

Davis has broken a series of records in recent international windows, but this one will have a different feel as it takes place behind closed doors and without his family being able to attend.

"We're in the bubble but once I get back home I can mark it with the wife and kids, which will be nice," he said.

"We can't wait to get the fans back in and we're looking forward to getting then back. We'll just try to get a win and then in September they'll be back and we can push on."

Manager Ian Baraclough has not shied away from calling Wednesday's match a must-win fixture given the difficulty of Northern Ireland's task of breaking into the top two of a group that also includes Italy and Switzerland.

To get the three points they need, Northern Ireland will need to end a long winless run, with Baraclough yet to enjoy victory inside 90 minutes after 10 games in charge.

Though Thursday's opening qualifier ended in a 2-0 defeat to the Italians in Parma, there was major encouragement to be taken from the second-half performance.

The challenge now is to replicate that against a Bulgaria side who have themselves won only one of their last 10 games – a 3-0 friendly victory over Gibraltar in November – and who lost their opening qualifier 3-1 at home to Switzerland last week.

"They'll come here on the back of two defeats so they won't want to give a great deal away," Baraclough said.

"They shipped three goals to the Swiss very early on and were chasing the game from then on, it was an uphill task, so they'll come here looking to not give anything away.

"They'll defend and try to hit us on the counter, they'll try to hit longer balls than Italy did.

Heart of Midlothian v Hibernian – William Hill Scottish Cup – Semi Final – Hampden Park
Liam Boyce has remained in Scotland after the birth of his second child (Andrew Milligan/PA)

"Anywhere around their final third they'll be back in numbers, making us put balls into the box from deep and we'll have to be patient."

Baraclough reported a clean bill of health within the squad after several senior players sat out Sunday's 2-1 friendly defeat to the United States.

That means Liam Boyce is the only player unavailable with the Hearts striker having remained in Scotland following the birth of his second child.

With a lack of goals a major problem for Baraclough, the manager said the 29-year-old would be missed but he felt his side still carries a major threat.

"Boycey is another type of striker, he's different to the others, they've all got their own attributes," Baraclough said.

"We know how good a footballer Boycey is, his link-up play, so not to have that choice is tough, but I think with the six strikers we've got – and I include Niall McGinn in that – I think we've got a really good bearing of what we need to break the Bulgarians down."

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Paddy McNair pictured for Northern Ireland in September 2020
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Wednesday's key events


ROWING
· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

CYCLING
· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

DIVING
· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

EQUESTRIAN
· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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