Belfast Telegraph

Steven Davis winner keeps Euro finals euphoria flying high

By Steven Beacom

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.

"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