Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Evans wants top result for Northern Ireland

Jonny Evans has his eyes firmly fixed on the top of World Cup qualifying Group Three after leaving Poland with a precious point.

The South Africa 2010 dream is still alive after a cool finish from Kyle Lafferty and some heroic defending from Nigel Worthington’s side.

Northern Ireland knew they had to beat back wave after wave of Polish attacks but a combination of some wayward finishing and committed tackling from the visiting defence ensured a share of the spoils.

It is a result which offers little hope to Poland but puts an extra spring in the step of Evans and co.

The Manchester United centre-back, who replaced the injured George McCartney at left-back, has been playing through the pain barrier with an ankle injury but there was no sign of any major discomfort.

“My ankle is fine and there are no complaints about that,” said Evans.

The Newtownabbey man is now ready to foil table-toppers Slovakia on Wednesday night and only three points will keep a smile on his face.

“We are still second in the group, just two points behind Slovakia so the aim is to go top with a game left,” he said.

“At least we still have a chance of qualifying whether it is through top spot or a play-off.

“We defended well but obviously we are disappointed not to hold on for the win.

“You know you are going to come under pressure in these games, particularly away from home, but we were well organised at the back and I think the team performed well.

“Poland are a good side and it was a game they desperately wanted to win but a point keeps us in the mix.

“There were a few last gasp challenges that had to go in but we maybe expected that.

“They had to go on the front foot and attack us. A cross came in very quickly for the goal, I turned around and the ball was in the back of the net which was disappointing but overall we defended well and they had quite a lot of chances to score.”

More than 40,000 packed into the Slaski Stadium and Evans relished playing in the cauldron of noise.

“The atmosphere was great,” he added. “You expect that and the Poland fans got behind their team. It is always nice to hear that when you walk out at half-time or at the start.

“Coming home with a point from a tricky away game is a good result. This is a group where teams have taken points off each other and there could be more twists and turns but at least we are challenging for a place and enjoying our football.”

Evans also poured praise on goalscoring hero Kyle Lafferty who kept his composure to hammer home the opener.

“We would fancy Kyle to score from that position but his touch was good and the finish was excellent,” he added.

“When Martin (Paterson) came on he put himself about and gave their defenders something else to think about.

“He did get in a good position to score and the goals should come. All these games are tough but we have home advantage on Wednesday against Slovakia and we must win that one.”