Belfast Telegraph

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Better late than never for Green and White Army

By David Young

As the 90 minutes of normal time drew close last night, some disappointed Northern Ireland fans had already started drifting away from Windsor Park, convinced that the visiting Hungarians had denied them the victory they craved.

But those supporters must have been kicking themselves when they heard a massive roar from the stands three minutes into injury time.

As nails were being bitten to the quick, Kyle Lafferty pounced to snatch the late equaliser and the mood changed utterly. Seconds later the tide of relieved, happy fans poured out into the warm south Belfast night. It felt like a victory.

Despite their smiles, they were in no doubt that it had been close-run thing.

"We snatched it from the jaws of defeat, really," said Ryan Simpson from Warrenpoint. "Thank God for Kyle Lafferty. It's a sign of how far the team's come, in a way. I challenge anyone to say we're not going to France. Never say die! Just try and stop us!"

Belfast man Robert Fenton said: "I think we were fortunate to get the point - though I was glad to see it.

"The goal was about the only thing Lafferty did do - but it was the most important thing! But at times the match was very ordinary indeed. Hungary were the better side, but we'll take the point. We need it!"

Stewart Anderson from Carrickfergus thought the Northern Ireland team were lucky to rescue a point.

"The match wasn't great at all," he said. "There was no football being played. Absolutely no football. And that ref was a wee bit dodgy. But I'm pleased that we came away with a draw. We stole it."

The referee's decision to send off Chris Baird did not endear him to the fans. Roy Francey from Rathcoole said: "See that Turkish referee? Tell him I'll never eat another Turkish Delight as long as I live!"

Bangor's Chris Hall added: "I think we need to buck up our ideas when we play Greece.

"We need to be very careful - or we could throw it away."

Lurgan fan Phil Moutray believes the team are on their way to France.

"That was nerve-racking to say the very least. But now we're four points clear I think we'll make it to France OK," said the happy fan.

First Minister Peter Robinson also enjoyed the game and remained optimistic.

"While a win tonight would have secured qualification, the dream is still alive - and within touching distance," he said.

"The entire province is behind the team and we all believe they can do it."

Belfast Telegraph