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Pearce: I'll take chance

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THE fact that he is no longer a One Cap Wonder is a relief for Ireland defender Alex Pearce and the next goal for the man from Reading is to force his way from the fringes and into the Ireland team in 2014.

After his goalscoring debut against Oman in September 2012, Pearce then had a rather annoying 14-month wait for his next taste of international experience, when he came on as a second-half sub, replacing James McCarthy, in last year's scoreless draw in Poland.

With the central defensive berths being effectively owned by John O'Shea, Seán St Ledger and Richard Dunne over the last few years, it's been hard for the likes of Pearce to break in and even now, it seems as if Marc Wilson is high up in the manager's thoughts when it comes to centre-half.

But as he prepares to make his home debut – both appearances for the Republic so far were outside of Ireland – he has set himself a target of breaking in, his chances for tonight's game boosted by the fact that Damien Delaney, one of his rivals at centre-half, has been forced to return to his club for treatment on an injury.

O'Shea and Wilson are likely to start in central defence tonight, but Pearce, who can also play at full-back, hopes that Martin O'Neill will look his way at some stage.

"I am hoping I can get a chance in this game. It's the manager's call as to whether I play or not, but if called upon, I will be ready," Pearce told the Herald. "The Poland game last year was a big deal for me as it was obviously my first game under the new manager, but also my second cap, I had been stuck on one cap for quite a while.

"I scored on my debut and we won the game, against Oman, so that was a nice record to have, 100 per cent win record. But I got my second cap against Poland and now it is time to build on it, Ireland are unbeaten in the two games I played in so far, hopefully I am helping out.

EXPERIENCE

"I want to play as much as I can and get as many caps as possible, I know the other boys in the squad feel that way and I am the same. The more games I get, the more experience I have at international level.

"With so many defenders in the squad, it is hard to get into the team or even get a run off the bench, so I know I am under pressure to do well whenever I get the chance."

He only had half an hour to impress in the last game, away to Poland, but Pearce hopes he did enough.

"We had two good results, and two clean sheets, against Latvia and Poland over that week," he says.

"The surface in Poznan was very difficult to play on, but I think we did well in the game and it was great for me to get half an hour off the bench. For me, even being in the squad is a bonus," adds Pearce, aware that players like Darren O'Dea have been unable to even get into the squad.

"It's pleasing to be here in Dublin with the chance to show the manager what you can do. You take the positives from it – the fact that the manager has put you in his squad – but you know that in every training session you have to try and impress the manager, and Roy as well."

Of course, the friendly games over the coming months are all about building up to September and the qualifiers. "It's a tough group, but it could be worse," said Pearce.

"Germany are obviously the top seeds, but you have to play, and try to beat, top teams if you want to qualify and qualification has to be our aim. We have some tough teams in the group, but we will have a real go at qualifying."

IMPRESSIVE

Pearce's form with Reading these days is impressive and he has even found a scoring touch.

Having gone for two years without a single goal at club level, he netted twice in three games for the Royals, in wins over Millwall and QPR.

"It's been a nice run, but the delivery from the lads in the team has been good and it's just about me getting on the end of it and trying to score," he says.

"The first goal of the season is always the hardest one, once you get that out of the way, other goals come along.

"But the main thing for me is being in the team and helping the team get into the play-offs and, eventually, get promoted."

For Pearce and his side, promotion remains the aim as they are currently just one place outside of the play-off zone. "We need to get back into the Premier (League)," says Pearce, who made 19 league appearances for the Royals in their last season in the top flight.

SQUEEZE

"We have had a couple of dodgy home games recently, but our away form is good, we have won away to Watford, Millwall and QPR in the last few weeks.

"It is very tight in the Championship now, everyone is trying to squeeze into the play-off places. I think you have four or five teams – including us – who are looking to clinch the last play-off spot and we want to make sure we are in there."


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