Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland players won't get caught up in all the hype, insists Norwood

By Graham Luney

Oliver Norwood's message after the stunning victory over Finland was a simple one - the hype means nothing, we have to finish the job.

Northern Ireland's hopes of reaching the Euro 2016 finals in France have increased dramatically following the 2-1 success at Windsor Park, sealed by a sweet double from Kyle Lafferty.

The Finns didn't go down without a fight and a late goal from Berat Sadik threatened to rip up the script but Northern Ireland held on to record only their fourth victory in 18 contests against their Scandinavian rivals.

The Green and White Army are trying to contain their excitement after watching their heroes taste victory in four of their first five qualifiers and they could even claim top spot in Group F with a win over Romania at Windsor on June 13.

With the top two teams qualifying from the group and the third placed side hoping for play-off success, Northern Ireland, who have never made the final stages of the European Championship, are on the brink of making history.

But the players are adopting the 'one game at a time' mentality that works so well at club level and Reading midfielder Norwood wasn't the only player who refused to do cartwheels on his way out of the mixed zone at Windsor.

"We don't want to get carried away," said the 23-year-old. "You can see everyone buzzing and smiling and after putting ourselves in a great position hopefully we can make it. It would be terrible to throw it away now so hopefully we can last the distance.

"After winning four out of five matches, your confidence is going to be high but we have to make sure we capitalise on that. There are still massive games to come but if you start believing the hype then you will slip up."

Norwood put in a huge shift against the Finns and his evening was always going to get tougher when skipper Steven Davis withdrew from the action at half time with a thigh injury.

Corry Evans plugged the gap and even though the hosts lost some shape and drive they managed to weather a late storm.

"Davo was a big loss against Romania, he's our captain and leader and he leads by example," added Norwood.

"He gets the boys going but Corry was fantastic when he came on and we have a good squad with players hungry to come in and impress."

Belfast Telegraph