Northern Ireland v Romania: Steven Davis delighted by a whirlwind swing in results
Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis has admitted his surprise at how far the team have travelled in such a short space of time.
The Southampton star is the first to insist though that the journey is not finished yet and only will be if and when qualification for the Euro 2016 finals is secured.
Davis will be a key figure in tonight's Group F showdown with Romania at Windsor Park.
He did not play in the corresponding fixture in November in Bucharest when the Romanians won 2-0 and as manager Michael O'Neill pointed out at yesterday's press conference, the midfielder's quality in possession was sorely missed.
Davis has been hugely influential in Northern Ireland's other four group games, all won.
What a difference to the last qualifying campaign, the 2014 World Cup, when O'Neill's side only won once in the entire 10 group games.
On the back of that, Northern Ireland fans thought making it to the Euro finals in France next year was a distant dream. Now they are buying French phrasebooks such has been the transformation.
Even during the World Cup defeats, Davis could see light at the end of the tunnel but not so much that the country has almost been blinded by the success of the last 10 months.
"To get the level of consistency that we have shown in this campaign so far is a little bit surprising to be honest but it is down to the effort and work we have put in previously in trying to put things right," said Davis.
"It is good to see we are on the right path," added the 30-year-old.
Then comes the warning that they have yet to reach their destination.
He said: "We are only at the halfway point though and we have to keep up to those levels and keep reaching them consistently."
Level headed and calm Davis says table-topping Romania are favourites entering tonight's clash. He also believes, however, that it is a match Northern Ireland can win.
"Romania are a very good team. I know from having watched clips of them against other teams in the group that it is going to be a difficult game so we'll have to be at our best to take something from it," said Davis, set to win his 74th cap.
"I think Romania are favourites. They're ranked 12th in the world but we're confident and I think we can get a good result and take a step in the right direction in terms of qualification.
"Any game you go into, you are looking to win, not looking for a draw.
"I believe any result in a positive way is a step in the right direction for us and we are aiming to win the game.
"The atmosphere around our squad is great.
"We had some good work together last week and this week.
"The mood has been good in training and we are really looking forward to the game. It is a nice place to be."
Davis could come up against Southampton team-mate Florin Gardos. The pair have already been in touch this week.
"I spoke to him on Wednesday before he came across to Belfast and I will get a good catch-up with him either before or after the game," said the ex-Rangers hero.
"It's always nice to play against your team-mates from your club."