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Steven Davis winner keeps Euro finals euphoria flying high

By Steven Beacom

Published 14/11/2015

Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 13 : Northern Ireland's Steven Davis Celebrates with Josh Magennis after scoring in action during the International friendly held at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 13 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast , UK - NOVEMBER 13 : Northern Ireland's Steven Davis Celebrates with Josh Magennis after scoring in action during the International friendly held at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 13 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)

Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis hailed a fantastic end to his best ever year in international football after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 friendly victory over Latvia at Windsor Park last night.

Davis struck in the 55th minute to further boost the feelgood factor amongst Northern Ireland supporters, still jubilant after seeing their team qualify for the Euro 2016 finals. The Southampton midfielder played a massive part in that, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Greeve in Belfast last month to seal the country's place in France.

Beating Latvia means that Northern Ireland's unbeaten run has now been stretched to eight games.

"It has been the best year in my career as a Northern Ireland player and it was fantastic to end it on a high with another win," Davis said.

Davis added: "We wanted to keep the momentum going and keep that intensity and desire in our play. We started the game brightly and had a couple of chances early on and that got the crowd going.

"It was brilliant to score again. It was a great ball from Craig and I got the rebound in. I had another few chances as well but to score again was brilliant.

"The pleasing thing was the overall performance. We played a different formation and adapted really well to that and dominated the game.

"I have always said that I love playing in front of our fans at Windsor. They have always been great to me and they gave the team fantastic backing again."

The victory was Northern Ireland's first friendly success since 2008 when Davis played in a 4-1 home win over Georgia.

It also gave manager Michael O'Neill the opportunity to try out a 3-5-2 system and Davis yet again was a key man in the middle of the park.

Northern Ireland's Steven Davis scores his side's first goal of the game during an international friendly against Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis scores his side's first goal of the game during an international friendly against Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates with teammates Josh Magennis (right) and Stuart Dallas after scoring his side's first goal of the game during an international friendly against Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis celebrates with teammate Josh Magennis (right) after scoring his side's first goal of the game during an international friendly against Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland Kyle Lafferty and Latvia goal keeper Andris Vanins during Friday night's International friendly match at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty goes close during this evening's game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas and Latvia's Vladislavs Gabovs during Friday night's International Friendly match at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Northern Ireland fans during the international friendly against Latvia held at Windsor Park, Belfast. (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Northern Ireland's Craig Cathcart and Latvia's Aleksejs Visnakovs in action during the international friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Northern Ireland fans during the international friendly against Latvia held at Windsor Park, Belfast. (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty with Latvia's Vitalijs Maksimenko during Friday night's international friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. Pic: William Cherry/Presseye.
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty with Latvia's Kaspars Gorkss during Friday night's international friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. Pic: William Cherry/Presseye.
Northern Ireland players warm up before the international friendly between Northern Ireland and Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during the friendly international against Latvia at Windsor Park. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland's mascot and Children in Needs Pudsey bear during the international friendly held at Windsor Park, Belfast. (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
Northern Ireland's mascot and Children in Need's Pudsey Bear during the international friendly against Latvia held at Windsor Park, Belfast. (Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye)
The Northern Ireland team ahead of their friendly match against Latvia at Windsor Park. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
General view of the Adidas Euro 2016 Championship match ball before the international friendly between Northern Ireland and Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland players warm up before the international friendly between Northern Ireland and Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland's Chris Baird warming up before the international friendly between Northern Ireland and Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Teams warm up before the international friendly between Northern Ireland and Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland fans before the international friendly between Northern Ireland and Latvia at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Latvia's Deniss Rakels (left) and Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans battle for the ball during an international friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during an international friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Latvia's Olegs Laizans (left) and Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas battle for the ball during an international friendly at Windsor Park, Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

"It was nice to get the monkey off our back in terms of winning friendlies," added Davis.

"We knew going into the game we were on a good run and that the last Northern Ireland team to go unbeaten in eight matches was 30 years ago so we wanted to match that.

"We won't play another friendly now until March but we will keep in touch over the course of the next few months before we meet up again.

"It is important now that everyone does well for their club. We want everyone to be coming into games next year with good fitness and feeling confident."

Northern Ireland's under-19s face Russia in Sochi today where a win for Stephen Craigan's team, who beat Norway 2-1 on Thursday, will guarantee their qualification to the Elite stage of the European Championship qualifiers.

Belfast Telegraph

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