Belfast Telegraph

Goalscoring duo home in on magic Windsor wonderland

By Paul Ferguson

Two-goal hero Gareth McAuley was last night refusing to celebrate until Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 qualification is confirmed.

West Brom defender McAuley scored two terrifically taken headed goals in Northern Ireland's 3-1 victory over the Faroe Islands in Torshavn last night, with Kyle Lafferty sealing victory with his sixth goal in seven games during this campaign.

A win over third-placed Hungary on Monday night at a buzzing Windsor Park, would secure Northern Ireland's passage through to their first ever European Championship finals.

But 36-year-old centre-half McAuley is refusing to get too excited, nor contemplate the dream coming to fruition.

"It was a great win, we are in a good position but we haven't qualified yet," stated McAuley last night, who admitted the Faroe Islands were every bit as tough as anticipated.

"There is nothing to celebrate unless we win on Monday night."

Northern Ireland were locked at 1-1 until a huge turning point in the game on 64 minutes when Farorese goalscorer Joan Edmundsson's was sent off for a second bookable offence.

The dismissal galvanised Northern Ireland and it only took a matter of minutes for them to retake the lead.

McAuley added: "The red card probably did make the difference. It was quite even up until then, so I suppose helped us out. We knew set pieces would be important in the game plan and we've managed to win again through that.

"It was always going to be tough to come here and get a win. We needed to battle hard against the elements (swirling wind) but I thought we dealt with that quite well. Michael (O'Neill) told us at half time not to panic, just do the same thing and we're so happy to come out with the points."

McAuley scored against the Faroes in Belfast, setting Northern Ireland on their way to a 2-0 win.

Last night, his goals were crucial in not only the victory, but settling any Northern Ireland nerves.

"I really don't know where all these goals are coming from," conceded McAuley. "There is just a real desire and a real hunger to get to these finals. It really doesn't matter if I score or someone else. We just want to get there.

"Now we'll be coming home to face Hungary in a really tough game. But coming home with three points, the place will be bouncing I just wish Windsor Park was at full capacity.

"However the ones who do get tickets will hopefully get us over the line."

For Lafferty, last night was his first competitive game of the season.

"I think it showed at times," admitted Lafferty. "It wasn't my best performance in a green shirt and I really need games.

"There's no secret Michael and I have a great relationship, the belief he's shown in me in the whole campaign says it all. I was probably lucky to even be on the field this time but he told me I could do a job for 65 minutes and I tried my best.

"We will get our heads down, rest and look forward to Monday. I believe we'll cross the finish line, and it will be a massive achievement for me and the lads.

"With the performances we've shown and the squad we have, I think we'll do it.

"It's going to be a huge game and I'm so pleased it will be at home."

Belfast Telegraph