Belfast Telegraph

Evans happy to step into Big G's goalscoring role

 

By Steven Beacom

Jonny Evans revealed he had to take up the mantle of his goalscoring team-mate Gareth McAuley as Northern Ireland claimed a crucial 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic in the World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park.

Normally it is West Brom defender McAuley who comes up from defence to score a vital goal at a set-piece, but with 'Big G' injured, his Albion colleague took centre stage by netting the opening goal.

For good measure another man from the Hawthorns, Chris Brunt, added a stunning free-kick before the break.

Little wonder word went round Windsor Park last night that it wasn't just Northern Ireland beating the Czechs; West Brom were too.

For Evans, who delivered another sensational display alongside the evergreen Aaron Hughes in central defence, it was his first international strike since 2009.

"The ball broke to the edge of the box and Ollie Norwood headed it back. I thought the goalkeeper might get something on it but I managed to get to the ball first and head it into the net," explained Evans, the subject of interest from Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester during the transfer window.

"I thought there may have been a hint of offside but a few of the lads said it was okay and it was great to score.

"It's been a long time since the last one.

"I've not even come close, that's the worrying thing," he said with a smile.

Evans added: "Big G (McAuley) has always been the goalscorer.

"I've let him take the limelight but he wasn't here this time so I had to step up."

The victory secured Northern Ireland second place in Group C and a probable play-off place for the World Cup finals.

Former Manchester United favourite Evans added: "To go 2-0 up against a nation like the Czech Republic surprised me.

"They had a lot of possession but it didn't ever feel like they were going to break us down.

"They didn't really test Michael McGovern that much.

"That's credit to our team and the work-rate of the lads who put in a great shift.

"We had to sprint across the pitch again and again and it takes character to do that for 90 minutes.

"All credit to the lads for what we have achieved."

Asked about a possible play-off, Evans stated: "I don't think anyone would really want to play us at Windsor Park.

"It's always been that way but even more so now."

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