Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern stresses that while securing second place in their World Cup Qualifying group behind Germany is great, there is more to be done to achieve their ultimate goal of reaching the World Cup.

Michael O’Neill’s side enjoyed an ideal international week with wins away to San Marino and home to Czech Republic with McGovern enjoying clean-sheets in both games.

The results sealed second place in the group and should guarantee Northern Ireland a play-off for a place in Russia.

“It was a perfect couple of results for us; we scored five goals, didn’t concede any and we got six points which secured second spot with two games to go so everything really went to plan and in football that doesn’t usually happen so it was very pleasing,” said the former Enniskillen Town netminder.

However, he acknowledges that there is still more to be done if they want to be on the plane to Russia next summer.

“It is great to talk about achieving our goal of getting second place in the group but at the end of the day we want to qualify for the World Cup, that’s our ultimate goal.

“We’ll not get carried away with getting second place,” he added.

To that goal, Michael says that the upcoming final two group fixtures against Germany at Windsor Park and away to Norway next month are vital in preparing for the play-off tie which will be in November.

“The games in October are important because we want to continue on the good momentum we have had over the last two years.

“I’m confident that we can do that, we will go into the games in October looking positive results and that will put us in a good place for going into the play off games in November.

“We are really enjoying our football and really looking forward to the next set of games and then we’ll see what we have after that,” he said.

Northern Ireland’s fine qualifying form has been built on a rock steady defence with the side keeping clean sheets in seven of their eight games, the German’s the only side to score against them in qualifying. And as McGovern states, they also have the ability to get goals at the other end of the pitch.

“Michael takes a lot of credit for the way he sets us up, we’re organised and we’re hard to breakdown and through that we get a lot of clean-sheets. We keep it tight at the back and then that gives us a chance going forward to nick goals and we always seem to get them. That’s the way we go about things and it’s a credit to Michael that we are such an effective team,” he added.

That the team also includes quality Premier League performers such as Johnny Evans and Steve Davis is a big help but McGovern believes that it is the team spirit that has taken them so far.

“You can’t underplay the quality that we have, especially the guys who play in the Premier League. The likes of Johnny Evans, Steven Davis, Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley are all top class players but I think that the biggest thing in our team is the spirit we have and that spirit and togetherness brings us a long way. For me that is our key characteristic,” he commented.

The run to the play-offs has also shown that Northern Ireland qualification and subsequent performances at Euro 16 was no one off achievement.

“People thought we were at the Euros through the new qualification process of the second and third place teams getting through but we won the group and we showed how good a team we are to do that and we have continued that on in this campaign which is great. It shows it wasn’t a fluke.

“A lot of things come together for that, especially the group staying together. I think Chris Baird is the only one who has retired and it was important to keep the group together as the fear was after the Euros that boys would retire. However, everybody has kept with us and momentum has kept with us and I don’t think too many boys want to retire when things are going so well for us at the moment,” he said.