Corry Evans believes Northern Ireland can approach next year’s Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs with confidence after going toe-to-toe with Holland on Saturday night.
Though Steven Davis missed a penalty in a goalless draw at Windsor Park, Northern Ireland put the Dutch under pressure in the early going and were rarely threatened themselves.
The result closed the door on any lingering hopes of automatic qualification before their final Group C fixture against Germany in Frankfurt on Tuesday night, but Northern Ireland will now wait for Friday’s draw to discover who they will face in the play-offs next spring.
And Evans feels there is little to fear after they threatened to shock the Dutch in Rotterdam last month before two stoppage-time goals inflicted a 3-1 defeat in the reverse fixture.
“Overall we can be pleased,” the Blackburn midfielder said. “We have shown in the two games against Holland that we are more than a match for them and we have to take confidence from this and carry it forward.
“We are all frustrated but as a team I think we have shown how far we have come. We more than matched Germany and Holland in the three games we have played them and we will take that into Tuesday night’s game.”
Gavin Whyte, entrusted in the front three as he made the biggest start of his career, impressed as Northern Ireland pegged Holland back in the early going.
Though their threat faded after Davis’ missed spot-kick, they were able to frustrate the Dutch who created little at the other end.
Cardiff winger Whyte said: “It was so close, so unfortunate. I thought we were superb. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we weren’t going to get much of the ball and we’d have to dig in deep at times.
“I think the overall performance was a testament to how far we’ve come as a team, I thought we were brilliant.”
The contest petered out towards the end, though the Northern Ireland fans did their best to create a party atmosphere as they celebrated the achievements of Michael O’Neill, almost certainly taking charge for the last time at Windsor Park after accepting the job of Stoke manager.
O’Neill admitted to a sense of anti-climax at the end after a “missed opportunity” to claim a big scalp, but it said a lot that Northern Ireland were disappointed to draw with the Dutch.
“He’s been magnificent for us and has taken us from where we were eight years ago to what we are doing now,” Evans said.
“We are in contention all the time to qualify and he’s been a huge help in our international careers.
“He has helped make dreams come true by reaching major tournaments and even like against Holland we are in games against big nations and we compete against them. A lot of that is down to Michael.”