Belfast Telegraph

Late, late Northern Ireland show puts O'Neill's men one step from heaven

Perfect night as NI win and Czechs beaten by Germany

By Paul Ferguson in Serravalle

Goal hero Josh Magennis hopes he has set up Northern Ireland for another historic night at Windsor Park on Monday.

After a frustrating 70 minutes against San Marino in Serravalle, Magennis scored two quick goals and captain Steven Davis slotted home a penalty to secure the 3-0 victory and move Michael O'Neill's men, who are in second place in Group C, on to 16 points.

With Germany defeating the Czech Republic 2-1, Northern Ireland are seven points clear of the third placed Czechs and a single point against the eastern European side on Monday will be enough to confirm second place and a possible play-off spot for the finals in Russia.

Magennis said: "Monday is going to be massive, especially in front of our fans at Windsor Park. It's going to be rocking.

"It could be another historic night because if we draw we could confirm second place and that gives us a great chance of getting one of the eight play-off places.

"The minimum we want is the play-offs and that's the biggest cherry we have. It feels amazing to score the goals, help the team and hopefully it could be another brilliant night at Windsor."

Magennis was a constant threat for Northern Ireland against a San Marino team rooted to the bottom of Group C.

He started on the wing and then moved up front.

However, Northern Ireland found it difficult to find a way through the San Marino defence.

The Charlton striker said: "It was tricky. It's always nice to win 3-0 but especially in these types of situations with a game on Monday.

"When you're playing up front you need to stay in the box and the chances will come and it's up to you to put them away.

"I managed to get a double which is fantastic. But the result is the most important thing.

"I would say that is my best game in a Northern Ireland shirt, not just because of the goal but I felt I really contributed going forward."

For Magennis' first goal he tucked away a Davis cross on 70 minutes but only after seeing goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini make a great save, and then for his second, Conor Washington opted to pass to the Bangor man rather than go it himself.

"Brunty played a great cross into me and I thought it was a goal but the keeper made an unbelievable save and managed to spin it away but Davo kept it in and gave me the opportunity to score.

"Then for the second Conor felt I was in a better position to score and played it to me. I was very grateful."

Magennis could have had the chance to score Northern Ireland's first ever World Cup hat-trick away from home when the men in white were awarded a penalty on 78 minutes after Alex Gasperoni handled in the area. But skipper Davis pulled rank and struck it home.

"As soon as the ref blew the whistle I was thinking what side am I going to put it in," smiled Magennis.

"But then I saw Davo with the ball and I said 'skip can I take it?' But he said 'no chance' (as Davis is the regular penalty taker).

"He's the captain and leader of the team and what he says goes when Michael's not around."

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